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Saturday, March 31, 2012

Cricket: India-South Africa One-Off Wonder Derailed!

What a pity! Team India went all the way to Johannesburg, South Africa to play just one match against the hosts. That too, a T20 cricket international or a three-hour cricket movie. But unfortunately even that little show was brutally cut short by rains. Winning the toss a still defensive Indian skipper opted to field first and his non-strike bowlers helped South Africa to post a mammoth 219/4 in allotted 20 overs. India started well and raced to 71 runs in about 8 overs when rains came down. As per the D/L method India were below the required runs and so South Africa were declared winners by 11 runs. The wonder worked ponders for India and us!

The reasons for this one-off wonder were not far to seek. This was supposed to celebrate the 150 years of India-South Africa relations. But in fact, the landmark was achieved in 2010 itself and there were celebrations too in various ways. So this must have been preserved and reserved for ‘wonderful’ celebrations!

For a change Dhoni did not mention about ‘lack of rest’ at all and a nearly full-strength team was sent with the exceptions of only Virender Sehwag and Zaheer Khan who were apparently rested. Team India made a long journey to reach South Africa on 28th March, Wednesday and the South African team too had to hurry home from their New Zealand series. Now after the ‘wonder’ Team India had again to undergo a long journey to reach home either today or tomorrow—just in time for the biggest money-spinning event!

Yes! The India Premiere League T20 Cricket—Season Five (IPL-5) starting on April 4th seems to be overriding reason for this ‘wonder’. Team India had been in an ‘unprofitable’ state of affairs after their disastrous tour of Australia, their inability to reach the CB Series one-day finals there and also their inability to reach the Asia Cup final in Dhaka. So, the ‘profiteering’ Indian cricket Board naturally wanted a booster to create the right mood for the multinational, colorful and glamorous IPL-5 that is set to go on for nearly two months with as many as 76 cricket movies. Maybe the nostalgic memory of South Africa hosting IPL-2 in 2009 due to security concerns in India was another reason! But the ‘wonder’ failed them woefully and it is to be seen what marketing strategy they adopt now. To their great solace newspapers and television channels who always cry foul against IPL for India’s Test and One-Day failures are now flush with the most glossy and glamorous publicity about the event!

Meantime, the ‘loyal’ Australian skipper Michael Clarke finally gave in to the IPL-5 temptations. He was signed by Pune Warriors (owner Sahara Group who recently threatened to withdraw from IPL-5 and also overall sponsorship of Indian cricket) as a replacement for recuperating Yuvraj Singh for a sum rumored to be one million dollars for just six matches. Of course Clark justified his decision pointing out the big gaps in Australian cricket schedule which only allowed him to have this aberration.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Bizarre Happenings and Politics of Turmoil!

From ancient times it has been a proven war strategy to try strike the enemy at it weakest point. At the moment the ruling coalition of India seems to be the common enemy thanks to all sorts of campaigns and bizarre happenings. And of course, the coalition has been at its weakest due to the number game and a series of unending scams.

If a few crucial allies withdraw support the ruling coalition of India will be reduced to minority and these allies got emboldened by the recent election results in five states of the country where Congress—the main part of the coalition—did poorly including at the most politically strategic state of Uttar Pradesh.

Opposition political parties saw another opportunity to corner the government and joined hands with the allies directly or indirectly. The state election results also indicated a possible reemergence of regional forces at the cost of the national opposition parties. The debate on center-state power equation in the federal structure of the country heated up questioning the Govt. of India on its proposals to enact central laws regarding the anti-corruption ombudsman and a national counter-terrorism center. And, bizarre happenings have become the order of the day.

  • Mulayam Singh’s Samajwadi Party came back to power in Uttar Pradesh with thundering majority and dad Mulayam ruled for his son Akhilesh to become the new Chief Minister. A major constituent of the central coalition Samajwadi Party’s continued support was reiterated by Mulayam. But suddenly he began to dream about becoming the next Prime Minister of India! Why now…obviously!
  • The regional party in the southern state of Tamil Nadu—another strong constituent of the coalition—forced the government to vote against Sri Lanka in the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. A decision which the government of India would have examined intensively otherwise. Why now…obviously!  
  • The regional party in the eastern state of West Bengal—another troublesome ally of the coalition—sacked its own railway minister at the center for presenting a healthy railway budget for 2012-13. The party feigned ignorance about the proposal to hike railway fares after almost a decade and created havoc just after the budget was presented. A new leader from the party was appointed as the railway minister and he immediately announced a rollback. While common people never objected to this most-urgent fare hike the party stuck to its populist propaganda or blackmail. Why now…obviously!
  • In a sinister move the newly elected regional government in the northern state of Punjab decided to ask clemency for an assassin on death row who killed a former chief minister of the same state and who had been prosecuted by the same state government since 1995.  Why and why now? For regional or religious support? It is hazardous and extremely harmful to try guess any further. But obvious from our line of argument.
  • The Chief of Indian Army General V K Singh chose his time to deliver a bombshell. He alleged that a huge bribe was offered to him by a retired General in 2010 to get a deal for sub-standard equipments passed. He refused of course, but waited for nearly two years to disclose the facts. General Singh had already been engaged in a bitter row with the government of India concerning his age and date of birth. Two sets of documents reveal two separate dates of births and years. He fought against the government in the Supreme Court, but lost the legal battle. So, as per his official date of birth he was to retire in May, 2012 and if the other date was proved he would have retired after nine months from this. General Singh also alleged of rampant corruption in army making it obsolete and thus compromising the security of the country in a letter written to the Prime Minister. Why this particular timing…well not that obvious, but giving ample opportunities for the interested parties to intensify attack on the ‘common enemy’.
The largest democracy of the world looks set on a course of bitter ‘democratic’ fights and politics of turmoil. Things are set at the moment to get murkier and more bizarre as time progresses.

For the citizens of the country identifying the ‘common enemy’ seems to be the most urgent task of the hour. Goddamned difficult it is going to be indeed!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Paan Singh Tomar: Serious Bollywood Cinema With A Strong Statement!

Paan Singh Tomar was a real-life hero of India—a great athlete specializing in Steeplechase run winning National awards for the country. He was in army service while achieving his medals during 1958-64. He was seven times national champions and also represented India in Tokyo Asian Games in 1958. His record in 3000 Steeplechase stood the test of time for nearly a decade. After retirement he returned to his native village and tried to live happily as a farmer. But eventually the pride of India turned into an outlaw and was killed by Indian police in 1981. As a great sportsman he was unheard of, but carried a big award as a most-wanted dacoit of India’s notorious Chambal Valley.

The melancholic story of this real-life hero inspired director Tigmanshu Dhulia to make this movie titled Paan Singh Tomar that released all over India on March 2, 2012. There is no dearth of dacoit-genre films in India, but Dhulia opted for the serious kind of cinema with a strong statement. Powerful story-telling, apt technical support, brilliant cinematography and seamless editing, lilting background scores and powerhouse performances have made this movie an altogether different experience within the genre.  No wonder the movie has attained the status of ‘run’ away hit. 

Talking of performances Irrfan Khan steals the thunder as usual in the title role. It was palpable how much efforts and labor he had put in to live the role apart from all the running. His characteristic wry humor adds to the personality of Pann Singh Tomar. Fresh in the Indian army Paan Singh boasted of his maternal uncle as being a ‘baghi’ (rebel) and not a dacoit. The memorable dialogue in this context ‘Rebels breed in Chambal while dacoits are found in Parliament!’ rings the air. After being forced into the career of an outlaw Paan Singh kept up the ironical comment ‘Nobody heard of me as a national champion, but the moment I became a dacoit the whole country knew me and I came to carry a huge cash award on my head!’.

The first half of the movie vividly describes Paan Singh as an athlete with his victory run of steeplechase. For his straight talking and running talent army officials decided to send him for physical training to develop into a sportsman. Honest and loyal to the core of his heart Paan Singh at the time of war regretted being a sportsman as he was not sent out to fight the enemies. Retiring in prime age Paan Singh returned to his native village and immediately got entangled in a land feud with his relatives. He did everything possible from his patriotic fervor to establish peace and amity. Failing in that he approached his army bosses for help and they guided him to the local authorities. But corrupt admin and police insulted and humiliated him. While a police inspector threw away his medals his relatives back in the village raided his home killing his old mother brutally and his family just escaped.

That was the turning point and he had no option but to take up the gun and constitute a gang with members who were also equally repressed and tortured. The second half of the film narrates his career as an outlaw leading finally to his entrapment and killing by police. In this half the director had a tricky problem of choosing between a normal dacoit drama and the enigma of Paan Singh Tomar. With a masterful balancing act he succeeds in taking his film forward without romanticizing or condemning the real-life hero while fondly preserving his true characteristic spirit till the end. 

And, so when it is over we leave the theater with a heavy heart feeling painfully for the pitiful conditions of Indian sportsmen who are not successful cricketers. Deeply moved by this unsung hero the word of mouth spread far and wide working wonders for this wonderful movie. The strong statement made by the movie in favor of Indian sports fraternity lingers on.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Movie 'Kahaani': A Riveting Suspense Flick!

Suspense films are a rare genre in India. You can very easily count such films since the sixties to the present. Maybe genuine suspense plots do not fit into the mass-entertainment formula mostly adopted by mainstream Hindi cinema called Bollywood. Efforts have been made over time to make such movies, but most often elements of suspense get submerged and totally neutralized in the flood of song-dance sequences, overpopulated action scenes and compulsorily loud comedy track. 

Kahaani (The Story), directed and co-produced by Sujoy Ghosh, successfully emerges as a genuine suspense flick keeping you engrossed and guessing till the very end. Released on March 9, 2012 the movie had earned wide critical acclaim and also the super hit status as a Bollywood movie. 

In a female-oriented plot Vidya Balan plays the role of the protagonist Vidya Baghchi (pronounced as 'Bidya' in Bengali), a software engineer in an advanced stage of pregnancy who lands in Kolkata from London in search of her missing husband. She goes to the Kalighat police station straight from the airport.     The police officials there give her a patient hearing noting down the details and a photograph of the couple. Sub-Inspector Rana who was rescued by Vidya from his eternally troublesome computer problems gets drawn to her immediately and joins her to investigate. They follow several leads, but end up against a dead wall every time as no records and no apparently connected people help establish the identity of her missing husband. One important lead connects Vidya's husband as a look-alike of a dreaded and most wanted terrorist named Milan Damji who was believed to be a former Intelligence Bureau agent turned rogue and was also believed to the kingpin of a terrorist attack on Kolkata metro railway two years back. He went missing after that and seemed to be strongly protected by certain people in power even now. This deadly lead puts Vidya Baghchi's life in grave danger. This should be enough as far as the story-line is concerned. You deserve the full suspense treatment when you watch the movie! 

The well-woven mystery plot takes you effortlessly on towards a shattering climax. With twists and surprises thrown in there was never a dull moment in the nearly two-hour unfolding and the movie is almost flawless. You may feel at a particular phase that things are being done too simplistically, but overall you feel strongly disinclined to try finding faults thanks to the realistic and convincing treatment. 

It has all the pluses for you to relish--you love the quintessential Kolkata--the city of joy--unfolding before you through stunning visuals and montages; you get moved by another critically acclaimed power-packed performance by Vidya Balan who recently got the National Award for the Best Actress for her role in The Dirty Picture; you are awe-struck by the innocent-looking lazy, smiling and nondescript contract killer; you love the spontaneous performances by the actors of West Bengal hardly seen or known in Bollywood; you adore the masterful script and story-telling and brilliant cinematography giving you breathless outdoor moments; and, of course, the ever building suspense that compels you to guess and keep guessing. The movie has as many as six songs, one sung by none other than Amitabh Bachchan, but these are used as background scores and do not disturb the theme of the film. 

The climax, set in the immersion day melee of Durga Puja, manages to prove all your guesses wrong. On this day Goddess Durga leaves the earth after accomplishing her mission of destroying evil. Few critics have criticized Kahaani for taking resort to myths to justify actions in the movie. But once you enjoy it as a genuine suspense flick to your heart’s content it is hardly relevant to consider the 'hows' and 'whys'. As a lover of the suspense genre you may find shades of The Usual Suspects (one of my all-time favorite movies and a film that inspired so many others later) in the well-structured climax. 

Kahaani is a not-to-be-missed fare and better viewed only in theaters. 

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Asia Cup Cricket: Bangladesh Win Hearts, Miss History By Two Runs!

Bangladesh broke the hearts of thousands of fans when they failed to reach the target of 237 runs set by Pakistan by just 3 runs at the Asia Cup-2012 final played at Mirpur, Dhaka today. It was a thriller down to the last ball bowled. Bangladesh had Pakistan in a spot for most part of the match, but chasing in a big Final watched by home crowds pressure started building up along with the asking rate and Pakistan managed to have better nerves to win their second Asia Cup title.

Bangladesh won the toss and elected to field first as had been their preference throughout this tournament. Pakistan had a horrible start and continued to struggle losing wickets on regular intervals on a slowish pitch. Shahid Afridi came good when the team needed him most and somewhat rescued Pakistan from a tottering 133/6 in the 35th over to 178 in the 42nd over. Sarfraz Ahmed scored the highest individual score of 46 for remaining unbeaten. Crucial runs were given away by Bangladesh after the Pakistan innings seemed to be over at 206/9 in the 46th over. Anyway, a target of 237 runs still looked modest and immensely gettable for a team in top form.

Bangladesh started well and steady, but a miserable innings of 16 runs in as many as 62 balls by Nazimuddin kept the asking rising and rising. Opener Tamim Iqbal again played a sterling knock of 60 runs followed with gusto by in-form Shakib making 68 runs. But his wicket in the 44th over and skipper Rahim’s wicket in the 46th over (190/6) set the team back. The brave fight went on still finally falling short by just 3 runs and Pakistan winning by 2 runs. Shahid Afridi came good with ball too giving away only 28 runs in 10 overs with a wicket and he was adjudged the Man of the Match. Scorecard.

Bangladesh missed history alright, but their consistency and coming of age was beyond any doubt. They did not surrender this time as was the case in many earlier occasions and offered a nail-biting one-day match for all cricket lovers. They have beaten everyone except for Pakistan whom they nearly beat two times. They have proved the point that the tag of ‘minnows’ is no longer valid. They have won hearts all over including Pakistan’s Afridi and Misbah who praised their performance in no uncertain terms.

It was a cracker of a final and worthy of a really competitive Asia Cup-2012 that came to a close today.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Asia Cup Cricket: Pakistan-Bangladesh Final Tomorrow!

Even the historic feat of Sachin Tendulkar failed to inspire the Indian cricket team. Instead of celebrating the glorious moment with a win Team India gave away the match to Bangladesh after posting an imposing total of 289. Aiming for the perfect yorkers Indian bowlers were only raining full tosses which helped Bangladesh tremendously in the death overs. This loss became India's costliest mistake finally leading to the team’s ouster from Asia Cup-2012. In fact losing to Bangladesh, still termed as ‘minnows’, has a legacy. In World Cup Cricket-2007 India lost to them in a group match which led eventually to India’s elimination from the Super Eight stage.

Virat Kohli’s heroics add to the ironies. He played like someone possessed on two occasions. First in the CB Series played recently in Australia when faced with a do or die situation Team India had to win against Sri Lanka with a bonus point which they did thanks to Virat Kohli, Gambhir and Raina. Same situation arose in Asia Cup when Team India had to win against Pakistan to stay alive in the competition which they did thanks to Virat Kohli, Tendulkar, Sharma and Raina. On the first occasion India hoped Australia would beat Sri Lanka and on the second India hoped Sri Lanka would beat Bangladesh. In both cased the desired did not happen and India got ousted. Such ironies happen when a team is not playing with consistency and dedication.

Bangladesh is going to figure in an Asia Cup Final for the first time ever or so to say in any kind of major tournament finals. Normally they are prone to causing upsets in the preliminary stage and then surrendering meekly in the higher stage—like in World Cup Cricket-2007 they lost all their Super matches by convincing margins. But in this Asia Cup-2012 Bangladesh has been the most consistent and resurgent team beating giants India and Sri Lanka and nearly beating Pakistan. Tomorrow they must capitalize on this huge opportunity at home environs and try to shake off the ‘minnows’ tag forever.

Pakistan would also like to capitalize on India’s absence and play freely and positively to win the Asia Cup which they have won only once so far. And, this is the first time Sri Lanka will not be featuring in the Asia Cup finals and also the first time they have lost all their league games.

While defending Asia Cup Champions Team India must try to learn from their mistakes we should hope for a good contest tomorrow though Indian cricket fans will sorely miss the most sought after India-Pakistan final.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Cricket: Yuvraj Singh Wins Battle Against Cancer!

Dashing Indian cricketer Yuvraj Singh has just won the most challenging match of his life—his battle against cancer. He had been suffering from mediastinal seminoma--a rare germ cell cancer in his left lung maybe from the time of the World Cup-2011 when he had bouts of coughing and vomiting even while in action. The brave soldier never showed his pain but went ahead fighting for his nation. His exemplary efforts contributed significantly towards India becoming the World Champions and him being crowned with the Man of the Series award.

Yuvraj had been officially discharged from a hospital in Indianapolis, USA where he successfully completed the three cycles of chemotherapy. Doctors said that he had earned the ‘I will never return’ tag and could come back to normalcy within the next two months. Chemotherapy did not affect his liver and kidney adversely and these organs remained robust which was so important for a normal cricketing life, the doctors added.

Yuvraj tweeted his thanks to all his fans and expressed happiness at the great prospect of coming back home soon. After a few weeks of rest and rehabilitation he is likely to run to the cricket field by the first week of May, 2012. He also conveyed his greetings to the living legend of India, Sachin Tendulkar for achieving the historic Century of hundred international centuries.

For his countless cricket fans across India and the world this is a tremendous piece of good news. Fans are eager to see him back in the cricket arena. They want him to play on for India and go on being a match winner for his nation.

Yuvraj Singh had been undergoing treatment in the US for the last three months. In fact his proper treatment was delayed due to a wrong diagnosis by an Indian hospital when his tumor was described as benign. But after a series of tests under the supervision of US doctors the right diagnosis was made and it was described as a first-stage cancer which was curable. Yuvraj and his family accepted the truth and fought on bravely.

Yuvraj Singh will continue to be in USA for a few weeks and he is likely to return to India in April. His fans cannot wait to see their hero back in action.

His tremendous willpower and good spirit combined with the prayers of billions of fans helped him win this crucial match with distinction.  No doubt why he is always called a match winner!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Asia Cup Cricket: 'Virat' Victory Over Pakistan!

Prior to the Blockbuster there was a downpour last night followed a mild earthquake today morning in Dhaka! Maybe Nature too could not help getting agitated for the titanic clash between the eternal rivals! 

Pakistan won the toss and elected to bat first. Right from the start openers Hafeez and Jamshed looked confident and went on with clinical execution. They scored runs at will maintaining a high run-rate throughout. The first hundred run partnership was achieved in over no.18 and then double-hundred partnership in as early as the 33rd over. Both them helped themselves with worthy tons--Jamshed making his maiden hundred (112) and Hafeez made 105. Their getting out in quick succession hardly made any difference to the scoring momentum and a total in excess of 350 looked imminently possible. Finally a target of 330 was set for Team India as Pakistan made 229/6 in fifty overs. 

Lack of depth in Indian bowling was sorely visible one more time. Pravin Kumar became the most expensive with absolutely no control and the rest of the pack made no impact at all for the rampaging Pakistan batsmen. Even history-maker Tendulkar had to try his hand midway. Wickets came India's way, maybe almost too late. But nobody could make the cardinal of trying to predict a match featuring the classic rivals. Any of them is capable of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory or vice versa. Only that in Australia CB Series match against Sri Lanka Team India overhauled a mammoth total in less than forty overs winning a bonus point! 

The Indian reply started with a huge jolt. Opener Hafeez who scored a brilliant century earlier opened the Pakistan bowling too capturing the prized wicket of in-form Gambhir in the very second ball of the innings. But from then onwards it was an exhilarating display of stupendous batting prowess.

Sachin Tendulkar, now a big burden off his shoulders, batted freely and notched up another half-century completing a 133 run partnership with Virat Kohli. Kohli stroking the ball magnificently went from strength to strength achieving his third century in four appearances (he scored 66 runs in the last match against Bangladesh). Rohit Sharma joined him and raced to his half-century too. They had a rollicking match-winning partnership of over 172 runs filled with fours and sixes. The much talked about superiority of the Pakistan bowling attack was razed to the ground by the mastery of much talked about Indian batsmen. But, of course, this fact cannot write off the obvious inferiority of Indian bowling.

Virat (this word signifies huge or bigness) Kohli and Rohit Sharma kept company till the 46th over when Rohit got out for 68 with the team score at 305/3. Kohli made a terrific 183 runs off just 148 balls filled with 24 fours and 1 six. When he got out victory was only a formality which Raina and Skipper Dhoni accomplished with 13 balls to spare. India won by 6 wickets.

It was India’s one of the most fantastic wins over their arch rival Pakistan. They have thus increased their chances of reaching the final and meeting Pakistan again on 22nd March. If Sri Lanka beat Bangladesh India would be through and if Bangladesh win the second finalist will be decided on the best net run-rate between the two.

Virat was the spontaneous choice for the Man of the Match award.

It seems Asia Cup-2012 is following CB Series rules regarding teams tied with points. This means if India is locked with Bangladesh with the same number of points head-to-head record, not net run-rate, is to be counted. So, if Bangladesh win against Sri Lanka they will sail into the final due to the fact that India got beaten by them in the league stage. The only way for India's entry would be that of Sri Lanka's win--plain and simple win over the hosts.

Silence Of The Lamps!

Just remembered one very old joke that was doing its rounds in our childhood days. Immensely liked it those times and never forgot it till today! So why not put it out here for all of you! Though many of you may already know it or might have disliked it and for many more it could be clich├ęd. But no harm done in view of the ever building tension and suspense for the India-Pakistan Asia Cup encounter this Super Sunday.

Two drunks were having a heated debate under a street lamp quite late in the night. One said one thing and the other denied it vehemently.
“See how beautiful the bright shining sun looks!”
“Are you crazy buddy? This is the most beautiful blessed full moon I have ever witnessed!”
‘It’s indeed the sun!’ and ‘No, this is the moon!’ rent the still night air in the lonely street and the noise was getting louder all the time.
At that moment a third drunk happened to pass by. The two debaters decided to take the third opinion to settle the issue.
“Hey pal, just a minute please!’ Pointing at the street lamp above, “Please tell us is this the sun or the moon?”
“Very sorry, guys! I am new to this area!”

Better you laugh, because the noisy debate about the result of today’s cricket match is still raging! Laugh, laugh and enjoy! If India win you shriek with laughter hoping to watch another classic soon! If India lose you laugh more being grateful for the opportunity to enjoy a rare blockbuster!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Asia Cup Cricket: Sachin Tendulkar Creates History And Bangladesh Win A Cracker!

Finally it had to be in Bangladesh and against Bangladesh. Coincidentally it was his first ever century against Bangladesh in one-day cricket after scoring in multiples against all cricket playing nations. As if he had reserved Bangladesh for this historical moment and grateful Bangladesh reciprocated in an incredible manner!

Indian cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar finally accomplished the feat of the hundredth hundred in the 4th one-day international of the Asia Cup at Mirpur, Dhaka today. Opening the Indian innings he played with determination staying at the crease almost the whole of the innings and scored 114 runs off 147 balls. Now he has 51 Test and 49 one-day cricket centuries apart from being the first in many other records. Hailed as the second greatest batsman of world cricket after Don Bradman, Tendulkar achieved this after an agonizing gap of almost a year or since the World Cup-2011.

Media hype for the hundredth international hundred put lot of pressure on him maybe thus prolonging the hiatus and exerted much more pressure on expecting cricket fans many of whom almost gave up hope. So today, the sense of relief seems to be more than that of celebration. As many pointed out in the meantime we should focus more on his astounding total contribution to cricket rather than on this single feat as if his 99 centuries are of no value.

But even this sense of relief turned into dismay for Indian fans when Bangladesh turned the match on its head and posted an incredible victory in the last over. History failed even to make Tendulkar the Man of the Match today thanks to some superlative cricket from young Bangladesh players. 

Chasing a stiff target of 290 runs Bangladesh progressed steadily, but a little too steadily for comfort as the asking rate kept on rising to around 8 per over by the end of 34 overs putting the encounter in India’s favor. In came Shakib Al Hasan, promoted masterfully up the batting order, whose brilliant 49 off 31 balls put Bangladesh in contention. Even after the electric comeback India had a chance when Bangladesh needed 37 runs in the last three overs, but having the advantage of six wickets still standing. Skipper Mushfiqur Rahim sealed his team’s win with a quick-fire 46 runs off just 25 balls. At 293/5 Bangladesh won by five wickets with four balls to spare. Shakib Al Hasan who caused the turnaround was rightfully adjudged the Man of the Match. They have proved today that they are terrific chasers almost winning the first game too against Pakistan.

India’s weak bowling attack was woefully exposed yet again today. You find just no quality bowler who could keep it tight in the death overs. They can only hope to win if their batsmen score well over 300 runs for a target. One cannot go on depending only on the old war horses like Zaheer Khan, Ashish Nehra and Harbhajan Singh. To keep their status of world champions quality bowlers must be found…sooner than later.

Bangladesh have thrown the Asia Cup wide open now with all three teams having a chance to meet Pakistan in the final. India’s job is cut out. They must defeat a stronger opposition Pakistan on Sunday to keep their chances alive and waiting for the result in the last league match on March 20. If Bangladesh win against Sri Lanka and Pakistan beat India Bangladesh will be in final. There are interesting permutations and combinations. Wait and keep calculating!

The big one on Sunday becomes even bigger now. Every cricket loving person in both India and Pakistan is eagerly waiting to relish, agitate, romance, excite and devour the moments! They would want their teams to play in the final too!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Politics of Coalition and Contradictions!

The ruling coalition of India led by the Congress has been moving from crisis to crisis for more than two years now. Blackmailed and stalemated at every step of its operations by the allies and the opposition parties. After Congress did poorly in three of five states where Assembly elections took place February-March, 2012 the worst was expected. Now, with the start of the Budget session of the Indian Parliament from12th March  the worst fears seemed to have been confirmed.

Political parties join a coalition for grabbing the dictating power and a few ministerial berths. Being responsible ministers of the government they do not still bother to work for it, but rather think of ways to destroy it from within. The opposition parties as ever look for opportunities to ally with the ‘allies’ to corner the government, stall its functions and even to dethrone it so that they have a chance to come to power in mid-term polls. For a weak coalition withdrawal of even a single ally with only a few seats can reduce the coalition government to minority. If an ‘ally’ minister indulges in horrid corruption the ruling coalition has to take the blame hounded by the opposition parties and if it punishes the errant minister the concerned ‘ally’ would blame it again and threaten to quit supported again by the same opposition that shouted against corruption.

The Assembly elections results thus emboldened the allies more than the opposition parties who kept on lurking round the corner for opportunities. The prospect of a mid-term poll or General Election became a distinct reality. 

The Railway Budget was presented in Parliament yesterday by Dinesh Trivedi who belonged to an ally, Trinamool Congress (TMC) having 18 seats. The Budget was considered to a good and bold one. For nearly a decade trains fares were never increased. So, due to the resulting resource crunch and a stagnation in improving services Trivedi proposed an across the board hike in all classes of passenger fares. Before the aam-admi or the common man could react their representatives were up in arms. What happened was unprecedented.

Mamata Bannerjee, the Chief of TMC, attacked her own minister Trivedi for the fare-hike. She reportedly said she was not aware of this proposal and that she could never support any proposal adverse to the interests of common people. Like an ‘understanding’ ally she shot off letters to the Prime Minister asking him to sack Trivedi and for a rollback of the fare hike. TMC even came up immediately with an alternative railway minister. Trivedi defended his Budget making a historic statement ‘Nation first, family second and party only after’ and now his inevitable sack had been the hugely debated issue till the last reports came in. 

Other lurking allies and opposition parties would capitalize on this stalling work in Parliament one more time and could pave the way for a mid-term poll if the ruling coalition puts its foot down refusing to be blackmailed. Even if it agrees to everything it has to go on placating the allies and compromise on the General Budget and on other crucial Bills too.

Does Mamata Bannerjee understand how big a burden a mid-term General Election is going to put on the common man that she always vouches for? Or any other opportunistic and unscrupulous allies or political parties have any idea?

What is the solution? The citizens must vote in huge numbers and usher in a single-party rule. Coalition politics that always lead to contradictions a mockery of democracy must be condemned. 

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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Finally It Was An Easy Victory For India Over Sri Lanka!

Gautam Gambhir who missed centuries on at least two occasions in the recent Australian tour made exactly 100. Virat Kohli continuing from his brilliant match-winning knock of 133 runs in the last league tie against Sri Lanka at Hobart hit another super ton. Between the two they had a 200 runs plus partnership helping India post a big total of 304. Only Sachin Tendulkar looking for his hundredth ton missed again falling cheaply and tragically to a full toss. The second match of the Asia Cup today between India and Sri Lanka in Dhaka, Bangladesh posed to be a humdinger, but finally gave a clear verdict.  

Sri Lanka won the toss and elected to field first--maybe due to the Hobart experience. Malinga was also not in the side again maybe due to the drubbing he got from the Indian batsmen, particularly Kohli. The Indian innings started on a steady note thanks to some tight Sri Lankan bowling. In the sixth over with India's score at 19 runs Tendulkar fell to Lakmal caught by skipper Jaywardena who smartly planned for it by putting himself at short extra cover. Distraught Tendulkar appealed to the Umpires to consider if it was above waist level in which case it would be called a no-ball. But unfortunately for Sachin the sailing full toss fell below his waist when it came in contact with his bat. Gambhir and Kohli slowly opened up and began to score runs freely. After their respective tons Gambhir (100) and Kohli (108) both fell in the 43rd over at 226/3. 

Dhoni and Raina took over and they seemed to be in a great hurry to hit the 300 mark. Back to 'home' conditions Dhoni (46 off 26 balls) indulged in his usual power-hitting joined lustily by Raina (30 off 17 balls) and they took the score to 304/3 in fifty overs. For Sri Lanka Maharoof took 2 wickets for 57 runs and all of the other bowlers proved to be quite expensive. But considering 'home' conditions the total was not an impossible one.

And Sri Lanka proved it immediately by getting after the Indian bowlers selecting Pravin Kumar in particular for some rough treatment. Irfan Pathan tried to put a brake on the scoring rate by capturing the early wicket of Dilshan, but Sri Lanka proceeded on course to overhaul the target in 40 overs! They raced to 150 in just  the 26th over when in-form Chandimal fell to Ashwin for 13 runs. The turning point of the match came when Sangakkara got out to Ashwin again for 65 good runs at the team's score of 196 in over no.36. After that Sri Lankan innings broke with wickets falling in heaps. Remaining six wickets fell for the addition of only 58 runs. India won by 5o runs with nearly five overs to spare. Irfan became the most successful bowler for India with 4 scalps for only 32 runs followed by Ashwin and Vinay Kumar with 3 each. Finally it was an easy win for India in a match that was moving towards a nail-biting finish. Scorecard:

Vice Captain Virat Kohli was adjudged the Man of the Match—his second consecutive award.


Monday, March 12, 2012

Asia Cup Cricket Begins! India Vs Sri Lanka Tomorrow!

The four-nation Asia Cup for one-day internationals began on March 11, 2012 in Dhaka, Bangladesh. In the inaugural match host Bangladesh met Pakistan. It was a thriller to kick off the tournament with both teams undergoing the extreme highs and lows of performance and swinging fortunes. 

Pakistan looked to dominate at one stage with 135 for no loss, but Bangladesh reduced them to a hopeless 198 for 7. Then, Pakistan bowler Umar Gul played a brilliant cameo of 39 to lift the team to a challenging 262 for 8 in fifty overs. Bangladesh decided to give a healthy chase as they always prefer chasing. 

But when after a relatively good start Bangladesh got reduced to 135 for 5 the old script was about to be written. Then again, Shakib Al Hasan had other ideas and partnering with Razzak brought the team within striking distance of victory with only 39 runs needed off 40 balls and five wickets still remaining. But experienced Pakistan had the last high with Umar Gul as a bowler now combining with Saeed Ajmal gulped down all five Bangladesh wickets for the addition of only 18 runs. Thousands of Bangladesh fans were stunned and felt totally let down. Scores: Pak 262/8, Bangladesh 241 all out--Pak winning by 21 runs. Mohammad Hafeez of Pakistan was declared Man of the Match for all-round batting and bowling performance.

India after a disastrous Australian tour is meeting their opponent in the CB Tri-Series, Sri Lanka in the second match tomorrow. Thanks to 'seniors Vs juniors' plus the 'rotation' controversy dashing opener Virendar Sehwag is not in the team and Zaheer Khan too is out due to fitness problems. Sri Lanka seems to be confident after a good performance in the Tri-Series just failing to win the third final. But India does have the satisfaction of winning two out of the four encounters with Sri Lanka, one match ending in a tie. In all, it promises to be a big one in subcontinent conditions and crowds.

The main attraction of the tournament is going to be the India-Pakistan match on coming Sunday. Any such encounter between the classic arch-rivals is awaited with bated breath. Significantly such encounters are very rare nowadays because of strained bilateral relations. Meantime the ghost of match-fixing has also staged a comeback with a bookie making allegations that match-fixing has been the norm and that the World Cup Semi-final between India and Pakistan was fixed. The subcontinent cricket is always under suspicion and any big losses or wins for India generate rumors of match-fixing instantly.

Anyway, now it's time to enjoy the Asia Cup--2012!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Wall of Indian Cricket Retreats! Joy of Hindi Cinema Vanishes!

Fondly called the ‘Wall’ or ‘Mr. Dependable’ Rahul Dravid retired from international and first class cricket on Friday, the 9th March, 2012. Early morning the same day ‘Joy’ Mukherjee of Hindi Cinema (not called Bollywood in his time) passed away at a Mumbai hospital. These two events are not linked, but may impact a large mutually inclusive community to which this writer belongs.

The news was doing the rounds almost the whole day on Thursday that Rahul Dravid had called a press conference at noon the next day. Almost all in media knew what it would be about and the preparations began in earnest.

Rahul Dravid, the consistently No.3 batsman in India’s test matches and in one-day internationals too to a large extent, announced his retirement at a press conference in Bangalore around noon. The end of an era.

For the last 16 years we had been watching him, witnessing him and adoring him in all of India’s cricket matches here or abroad. We always looked to him for guiding India—first to safety and then to victory. A batsman with a solid 55+ average in away matches, 80 century partnerships with Sachin Tendulkar that is a world record and in all 80 century partnerships with 18 different partners, the world record holder for most number of Test catches taken, only the second cricketer in total Test runs scored, a good fielder plus a wicket keeper in need and solidity that was never questioned.

And, the superb cricketer had only a brief aberration in the recent Australian tour. He was the star in the previous away series in England. But age was not on his side and since all senior players did miserably in the Aus tour the heated controversy of ‘seniors Vs juniors’ must have pained him. When the Indian cricket Board dropped him or picked for one-day cricket at will Dravid retired from that in 2011 in disgust. A true artist with the bat just cannot take on politics. We are going to miss him terribly. Whenever we had to go out on some work in between watching matches we used to be assured if Dravid was at the crease. We salute the Great Cricketer and wish him all well for the future. 

Joy Mukherjee, one of the greatest classic romantic heroes of Hindi Cinema of the sixties, called it a day at the age of 73. His main attraction was his immense likeability. You just could not help but like him dancing or jumping around or just delivering dialogues. His disarming smile and a bright-jubilant countenance filled you with joy instantly without you knowing about it. His unorthodox acting antics, dress code and gait appealed enormously to the younger generation of the bygone era and even now. In this he can be realistically compared with the energetic Shammi Kapoor and the stylistic Dev Anand.

By the early seventies fitting roles for Joy Mukherjee dried up and he left acting focusing on film-making where he was not a huge success. Slowly, he faded from public gaze, but lived on energetically in his movies. If his movies like ‘Shagird’ or ‘Lovein Tokyo’ are screened or shown somewhere you are drawn in irresistibly compelling you to relish it one more time.

While grieving for his demise we get assured by the fact that he is immortalized in his movies. So, who can stop us from enjoying an evergreen super-hit song ‘Japan…love in Tokyo’! This might even inspire the Japanese people solemnly observing today the first anniversary of the dreadful Earthquake-Tsunami that killed nearly 19,000 in 2011.

 Let the ‘Wall’ and ‘Joy’ inspire all to better times.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Honest Cop Murdered by Mining Mafia!

Narendra Kumar Singh, a young officer of the elite Indian Police Service (IPS—2009 batch), was mowed down by trolley laden with stones in Morena district of Madhya Pradesh on Thursday. An honest and upright officer, Narendra Kumar was trying to stop the trolley, allegedly belonging to the mining mafia, for carrying stones illegally.

He was posted as a sub-divisional police officer in that district just about two months ago. The area has been notorious for illegal mining activities and Narendra had been very active taking the initiative and conducting checks, seizures and arrests round the clock. Acting on a tip-off that day he along with his driver and security guard intercepted the trolley ordering it to stop. The vehicle did not stop and ran him over. He was rushed to the nearby hospital and was announced brought dead. A horrific price of honesty young Narendra had to pay.

His distraught father while taking pride in his son’s crusade against criminals asked some very crucial questions. Why a top ranking officer had to go physically for the job normally done by inspectors and constables? Why the state machinery did not provide him the support and security despite his on-going efforts? Was the mining mafia enjoying patronage from the people in power? His father also alleged that all the criminals arrested by Narendra were freed eventually.

This points a finger to the government (read political)-mafia-underworld nexus that had seemingly plagued many states of India in recent times. But nobody takes the responsibility of initiating some action and all doubts and allegations get denied in normal course of proceedings. Political parties are only quick to capitalize on even the most tragic issues to make political gains. Seeing a party under pressure the opposition parties will only try increase it asking for resignations and even mid-term elections.The ruling parties or governments will also be more guided by the noise made by the opposition parties rather than focusing on the issues for the actions needed and for justice.

If you are an honest officer or employee in any of the governments in India you just cannot hope for admiration or protection for your righteous actions. You will be protected only if you allow yourselves to be forced, coerced, brain-washed and baptized into the correct or required or desired political scheme or theme or alignment.

Narendra Kumar Singh’s murder must be condemned by all right-minded Indian citizens. They must ask the authorities, ‘Do you have the courage to look straight in the eyes of Narendra’s pregnant wife and all his grief-stricken family members, and announce you will give justice?’

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Australia Winners of CB Tri-Series ODI Cricket!

Australia emerged winners of the Commonwealth Bank Tri-Series ODI cricket defeating Sri Lanka by 16 runs in another low-scoring thriller today at the Adelaide Oval. Australia won the best-of-three finals 2-1.

Sri Lanka missed a tremendous opportunity today. They bowled out the mighty Australians for just 231 and the total could have been less than 200 if Sri Lanka capitalized on the chances given on the field. Their fielding was not at all the quality they are used to normally and they also missed a few crucial catches. Strike bowler Lasith Malinga was more of a liability today giving away too many runs without taking a single wicket. Maybe he has been still reeling under the hammering given by India in their last league match which Sri Lanka lost after amassing 321 runs. Even then, the target of 232 was a modest one, but the pressure of a big final was always there. It has been observed in the last few matches of the CB Series that teams found huge totals harder to defend and low ones easier to defend!

Except for a roaring opening partnership Australian batsmen did miserably losing 5 wickets from the score of 115 to 151. At 151/6 a total of even 200 seemed remote. But pacers Brett Lee (32) and Clint McKay (28) added precious runs helping the team take the score to a somewhat respectable 231. There was not a single half-century in the entire innings, the highest score being 49 by Wade. 

Disciplined bowling and tight fielding made the Sri Lankans falter after a rousing start. They were reduced to a precarious 53/4 in the tenth over and then 142/6 in the 36th thanks to some great bowling by Brett Lee and McKay. Kulasekara, the hero of the first final, raised some hope of a comeback with Lee bowling two expensive overs in his second spell. But Lee managed to take the prized catch of Kulasekara amidst the run-deluge and McKay did the rest capturing 5 wicket for just 36 runs. Stand-in skipper Shane Watson though failing with the bat did some good captaincy with a tight first spell of 5 overs for only 8 runs and 1 wicket. It was perplexing why he came almost too late for his second spell, but when he came in again he took a wicket immediately slowing down the flow of runs too. For Sri Lanka only Tharanga could go past the half-century mark scoring a patient 71, but he could not carry on till the end. Man of the Series for his three brilliant centuries, Dilshan fell today cheaply to Lee though he chipped in well again with bowling. Clint McKay won the Player of the Match award for his all-round performance.

Finally, the better team of the day won. In a big final you cannot afford to have your top-order misfire and your middle-order suffocated for runs.

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