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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Indian Cricket: A Tale Of The Tails That Nails MS Dhoni!

When Team India loses half of its batsmen in a particular test match it is always all over. The Indian tail never manages to wag—meaning the tail-enders invariably fail to take the score on leading to a batting collapse and more often than not surrendering the match from a possible winning position. And when Team India manages to grab half of the opposition batsmen in a particular test match it only gives the charge back to the opposition thus more often than not surrendering the match. When these two lethal syndromes combine there is always a largely one-sided verdict against India. These ‘tail’-oriented maladies are responsible for most of the away defeats and six consecutive Test Series losses abroad suffered by India since 2011 including two white washes at the hands of England and Australia. This is responsible for the most successful ever Indian cricket captain to finally step down from Test cricket. A captain who gave India No.1 position in ICC’s Test rankings in 2009 for the first time ever and India continued there for 18 months.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni announced his retirement from Test cricket in Melbourne on 30th December, 2014 after saving the third Test against Australia and conceding the Series—a decision that was expected for a long while, but not at all expected the way it had happened. Most of the away defeats under Dhoni’s leadership had the ‘could have been Indian wins or draws’ written all over and that was why his Test captaincy was questioned again and again. His apparently defensive fielding tactics, perplexing bowling changes and inability to go for the kill blemished his Test career. He had created two contrasting records—crafted 27 wins in 60 Tests making him the most winning Indian captain and at the same time won just 6 of the 30 away Tests making him the most losing abroad Indian captain ever.

Last time Team India went to England (2014) they first created history at Lords and then just surrendered the Series 1-3 thanks to the ‘tail’ and other vulnerable factors. Earlier, the South Africa tour was also no better with possible winning chances neutralized. From that time onwards the question of Dhoni continuing as Test captain raged. But then, there were other factors, because MS Dhoni had excellent records in the other formats of the game. He brought two World Cup titles—one in the one-day format after 28 years in 2011 and the other in T20 format in 2007—for the country and maintained his absolute stranglehold in the shorter formats as the captain.

However, thanks to the celebrated cricket clout of N Srinivasan-BCCI-Dhoni-IPL-CSK fame nobody could have dethroned him even from Test captaincy and therefore there was more of arrogance rather than pragmatism or acceptance in his decision to retire suddenly. We talked about traces of arrogance in Dhoni as far back as 2009 and those traces grew into full fledged arrogance over the years. Notwithstanding the tough proceedings of the Supreme Court’s into the ‘conflict of interest’ of the IPL the clout still remains in the shorter formats and Dhoni would continue to captain India there. Having said that arguments offered by some that Dhoni should be sacked by the BCCI from captaincy in all formats due to the arrogance and high-handedness of his decision to retire are not justified. The greatest captain of Indian cricket team still has a lot in him to deliver for India.

Indian cricket is just like that. Now the next focus is on the World Cup-2015 and happenings in the Indian dressing room would decide how successfully Mahendra Singh Dhoni leads India from here on. Team India manager Ravi Shastri said after the historic Melbourne Test that in about a few months the young and aggressive Indian cricket team would start delivering in all formats of the game. He clearly indicated his confidence in Virat Kohli as the next captain. At the moment, being positive and pragmatic about the this great game of cricket would augur well for the Indian cricket team.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Travel: From Shillong With Khublei!

From Shillong Peak

Shillong---a city of the North Eastern India we have grown up with. Because, this beautiful hill station had been the capital of Assam till January, 1972 when Meghalaya was carved out of Assam as a separate state. And because the music legend of Assam, Bhupen Hazarika composed beautiful songs on Shillong and Meghalaya during the 50s, 60s and 70s. These songs have been our great favorites from our childhood days. So it hardly mattered that I visited the city only twice—once in my childhood days with memories getting blurred and one very brief visit in the 90s. When Shillong suddenly became my workplace I went there with all familiarity and with an unspoken bond of love.

Ward's Lake
I must mention the three evergreen Assamese numbers by Bhupen Hazarika on Shillong that always haunted me. ‘Shillongore Godhuli’ (Evening in Shillong), ‘Shillongore Monalisa Lyngdoh (‘Hello, Monalisa Lyngdoh from Shillong’ with Jayanta Hazarika) and his Assamese-Khasi movie ‘Pratidhawani’ (1964) duet ‘Lieng Makau’ with none other than Talat Mahmood. Lieng Makau is the imaginary name of a Khasi girl from the hills and the song describes her beauty in conformity with incredible nature giving details of culture and ethos of Meghalaya.

Umiam Lake
Shillong is an enchanting city with nature endowing her full attention and with narrow hilly roads winding through the peaks and plateaus of the city. With concrete buildings constantly on the rise at some lanes two vehicles could hardly cross and there have been traffic jams nowadays for similar reasons. Shilling has a altitude of nearly 5000 feet above sea level. Shillong Peak encompassing the Laitkor Peak has a height of about 6400 feet offering breathtaking views of the city and having sub-zero temperatures during December-January while in 

the city average temperatures range from 25 maximum (rarely up to 28) to 3 minimum throughout the year. Here you will never see ceiling fans or air-conditioners anywhere, but will find only room heaters in all office and residences. Khasi community forms the majority in the city with sizeable sections of Garo, Manipuri, Nepali, Mizo, Bengali and Assamese people apart from other Indians who mostly come on transfers. In Meghalaya 70 percent of the population are Christians which reflects in Shillong too.
Elephant Falls
Thanks to the cool climate you will find markets for woolens, wine outlets and fish-meat (mainly pork) shops almost everywhere in the city. In most of the activities you will find women in the forefront thanks to the matriarchal society of Meghalaya. Meghalaya has 11 districts including 5 in the disturbed Garo Hill region and the population is more than 30 million.

The cosmopolitan nature of the city is reflected in the workforce of most of the offices, organizations and corporations. Shillong Doordarshan, being a Government of India organization, has a workforce covering almost all parts of India including the major chunk from North East and East.
Doordarshan Shillong, Lailtkor Peak
This writer has the privilege of working now with a multi-ethnic, multi-linguistic and multi-religious team. And there is absolute harmony and bond as if all are bound by soothing Mother Nature. Inside, the inner chords of human hearts speak eloquently to you and outside, the descending clouds often have a dialogue with you. Sunlight is something in considerable scarcity here, but the warmth of human hearts make up for that.

English is the official language here, however of late efforts are underway for the inclusion of Khasi language in the 8th Schedule of the Indian Constitution. As I communicate in mostly English or in Hindi or in Assamese or in Bengali every member of the team endearingly asks about how I am doing or how I am finding the city. I say to them, ‘Shillong is breathlessly beautiful. It is of course very cold, but you people are very warm.’ Khublei (meaning Namaskar or thanks) to all of you! Khublei Shibun…thanks very much indeed! 

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