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Monday, June 29, 2015

Cricket: No Alternative But To Make Rahane Lead Second-String Team India For Zimbabwe Tour!

Finally all the IPL-weary Indian cricket superstars have to be rested, especially after the full-strength Team India failed to deliver in the just concluded Bangladesh tour losing the ODI series 1-2. The rested players are ODI captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Test captain Virat Kohli, Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina and spinner R Ashwin. With Dhoni not around some decisions became easier to take. Like dropping Ravindra Jadeja, bringing in Harbhajan Singh to the one day team after he made a comeback to the Test team in Bangladesh and selecting the captain for the second-string Team India for the tour of Zimbabwe starting 10th July. The tour consists of three one day internationals (ODI) and two T20 matches. This made-easy squad was announced by the BCCI national selectors in New Delhi today. 

Of course, having rested all the 'worthy' cricketers there was nobody 'worthy' enough to lead the team except for Ajinkya Rahane whose 'quality' is conveniently discovered now. After the humiliating defeat in the first Test against Bangladesh this very captain-now player was dropped for the second Test. This writer criticized the move mentioning his quality as a reliable batsman in these pages. But now, with no alternative available, the same player is named captain. Well, this is always a toss between the musts and the expendables that the Indian cricket Board exercises for team selection. And mind you, the BCCI has the 'wisdom' to justify the move of a forced second-string Team India on the ground of so-called preparations for the ICC World T20-2016. Their 'young blood' argument falls flat on so many occasions, yet they continue taking guard on the same. Maybe the Lalit Modi revelations regarding three star Indian cricketers may have some influence on the decisions notwithstanding the fact that the BCCI has given them all a clean chit. With the kind of storm Lalit Modi is creating all over the country anything seems to be plausible. 

Robin Uthappa, Kedar Jadhav, Manish Pandey, Sandeep Sharma, Krn Sharma and Manoj Tiwary manage to get selected now. Now Murali Vijay too manages to come back to the team. His super form was immaterial when selection for the World Cup-2015 was made. Anyway, let us see what this team does in Zimbabwe after the tour was revived. 

The Indian Squad: Ajinkya Rahane (capt), M Vijay, Ambati Rayudu, Manoj Tiwary, Kedar Jadhav, Robin Uthappa, Manish Pandey, Harbhajan Singh, Axar Patel, Karn Sharma, Dhawal Kulkarni, Stuart Binny, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohit Sharma, Sandeep Sharma.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Cricket: Bangladesh Win First Ever ODI Series Against India!

Bangladesh have made history on the night of 21st June, 2015 at Mirpur in Dhaka. On the first International Yoga Day they have made their golden day in cricket. They have won the first ever One Day International (ODI) cricket series against mighty India. Not only won, they have outplayed, mauled and humiliated India in all departments of the game and in every cricketing way possible. Bangladesh defeated India by 6 wickets with 9 overs to spare of the 47 allotted through D/L method due to rain interruption in the second ODI against India last evening. In the first ODI they won by 79 runs thus outclassing India in the series and taking an unassailable 2-0 lead in the 3-match series. For the first time the erstwhile ‘minnows’ have beaten India in two back to back ODIs. The sensational d├ębutante of the first ODI, Mustafizur Rahman took an incredible haul of 11 wickets and became the first bowler in the world to do so in his first two one day internationals. And, Bangladesh have qualified for the ICC Champions Trophy to be played in England in 2017. What is more significant is that they have deserved this fully—displaying tremendous cricketing abilities. From here they can only go up and up in the ladder of world cricket.

Whatever chance Team India had of regrouping and giving it back to Bangladesh in this do or die encounter was nipped in the bud when Team management ‘changed’ the team. The primary reason why India lost in the first ODI was the casual and complacent approach of mainly the superstars. But the management, as usual, ‘managed’ to axe only the expendables—Ajinkya Rahane who could have been invaluable on his day and bringing in an IPL expert Ambati Rayudu; Umesh Yadav who could have been lethal with his pace and bringing in another IPL expert Dhawal Kulkarni and Mohit Sharma who could have been encouraged to find his line and length and brining in Axa Patel who perhaps had nothing to prove except being close to the Indian captain.  Yet again, the superstars performed in almost the same way as before while the ‘changes’ hardly changed anything. Nobody in the management seems to be aware of the fact that Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, MS Dhoni and to a lesser extent Rohit Sharma continue to be out of form and unpredictable.

This series calls for a lot of introspection for Indian cricket. In fact except for the bright interlude in the World Cup-2015 Team India has not been performing to its potential. It has reached the climax now. If the usual complaint of ‘too much cricket’ is to be held valid then the two-moth long IPL tournament comes into deep focus. Maybe the Indian cricketers were too tired after giving in everything for the dollars of the IPL. And for Mahendra Singh Dhoni, undoubtedly the most successful and positive Indian captain, this could finally be the end of the road as far as at least captaincy is concerned. He had already escaped from Test captaincy and nothing is clicking for him at the moment. His batting form continues to be dismal, his wicket keeping not being of top class and his captaincy is coming to be questioned most frequently. His ‘protection’ within the cricket Board also seems to be gone. However, for a cricketer of his class he should decide fast before being unceremoniously axed. 

Friday, June 19, 2015

Cricket: Bangladesh Thrash India, Captain 'Cool' Loses It!

Bangladesh proved it precisely and clinically--that their cricketers are a spirited and hugely improved lot, that they beating Pakistan squarely was not a fluke, that they running India close to elimination from the World Cup-2015 was not an aberration, and that they have now avenged their exit from the World Cup effectively, so-called it might be though. They had excelled in every department of the game in the first One Day International match against India in Dhaka last evening thrashing and humiliating India by 79 runs. Winning the toss and electing to bat first they raced to a big score right away, despite being put into a tight corner at least twice by India. The Indian pacers were made fun of and only some spinning ability prevented them from reaching even 400. There were no big individual scores, it being a total and spirited team effort. 

It seemed the Indian cricket superstars did not take them seriously enough. Even after conceding 307 runs Indian batsmen had a rather casual approach while chasing. A tight and beautiful pace bowling by the Bangladesh pacers beat both openers again and again, just missing the outside edge. Within first four overs both the openers could have been out. However, India did manage to have sound opening stand of 95 for no loss. Just then, Shikhar Dhawan had a lazy heave getting out caught behind. That started the slide of 'star' batsmen falling to casual shots. This is not to say that Bangladesh bowlers namely Taskin or Mustafizur were bowling loose. This is to say that the so-called quality batting of India had the potential to face up to it effectively. For once the Indian Cricket Board (BCCI) made a correct decision sending a full-strength Indian squad, but the players could not muster the humility to treat them as at least equals. Mustafizur Rahman, making his ODI debut, had a brilliant haul of five wickets while keeper Mushfiqur Rahim held five great catches behind. At times Bangladesh tried a little too hard and was momentarily allowing the game to go the Indian way. 

When you make unnecessary mistakes you rue it very badly later, and get angry too. That was what probably happened to captain 'Cool' MS Dhoni. Seeing the match going away supposedly to a 'minnow' and that too due to his team's complacency he lost his cool and deliberately shoved Mustafizur on the way to a run. No doubt, Mustafizur cultivated a habit of standing on the batsman's way quite a few times in the match. But that did not permit the Indian captain to behave the way he did. This thrashing should act as an experience and also a warning for Team India in the following matches against Bangladesh, and perhaps in all their encounters against supposedly weaker sides. 

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Cricket: Rains Engineer A Draw For The India-Bangladesh One-Off Test!

It rained every day of the five days of the one-off Test match between India and Bangladesh at Fatullah. The second day's play was completely washed out and rains accounted for the loss of about 248 overs of the match, mind you, everyday you are supposed to play out 90 overs. This shows the poor planning of bilateral cricket series between the Asian neighbors. It was scheduled at a time when the South-West Monsoon hit India and advanced to most parts of the country. Besides, it was the only match that could be fitted into the madness. Now what will happen to the 3 one day internationals, nobody could guess. The first one is scheduled to start on June 18 in Dhaka. 

Ashwin With Virat
The test, in its realized portions, went the way it was expected with India dominating in all fields of the game. Winning the toss and electing to bat first India had to fight primarily its main opponent--the rains--than the Bangladesh bowlers. India lost the first wicket only after scoring in excess of 250 runs. Both of the openers scored big centuries each--Shikhar Dhawan 173 and Murali Vijay 150. Thanks to rain India had to go on playing till the end of the third day making 462 for 6 wickets. On the morning of the fourth day India declared and afterwards Bangladesh struggled and struggled. The rain curtailed fourth day saw them still at 111 for 3 with Indian spinner R Ashwin in top form. The recalled spinner Harbhajan Singh too bowled tight. Therefore, if at least a full day's play was available on the final day, there was no harm in fancying an Indian victory. 

However, when heavy overnight rains washed out first session's play today, a draw was inevitable. Even then, India put Bangladesh in some nail-biting moments by getting the hosts all out for a mere 256, lasting only for just 65.5 overs, and enforcing the follow-on. We cannot blame Virat Kohli now for not preventing Team India slipping down to No.4 in the ICC Test rankings. R Ashwin took 5 wickets and Harbhajan Singh 3 in the Bangladesh first innings. Bangladesh would really feel disappointed at not being able to avoid the follow-on, particularly after all the spice and expectations about their spirited performance. Mominul Haque too could not get his 12th consecutive Test fifty to equal AB de Villiers' record. Anyway, Bangladesh still has a lot to show in the three ODIs, rains permitting, of course. 

Thursday, June 11, 2015

India Against Terror: A Strong Prime Minister Makes The Difference!

It was just another attack on the Indian security forces in the terror ridden North Eastern region of the country. Only that it was one of the worst attacks in decades. On 4th of June, 2015 terrorists ambushed an army convoy in Manipur and butchered 18 soldiers and injured 11 more. The heinous terror attack seemed, as usual, to figure only in the book of records with some observations made about the folly of a supposedly vulnerable army movement on that fateful day. However, things took a dramatic turn this time.

Within five days of the terror attack the Indian Army embarked upon a surgical strike on the India-Myanmar border, reportedly going into the Myanmar territory, and hunted down and killed the perpetrators of the Manipur ambush. Equipped with accurate intelligence feeds the Army successfully launched a clinically precise and ruthless assault on the terrorists in an operation lasting only 40 minutes not having time even to count the number of terrorists gunned down. So far we have been used to hearing stories of the US Commandos, Marshall or Military or Navy Seals carrying out such strikes inside enemy territories and eliminating dreaded terrorists and their hideouts. Refreshingly this time this happens in our own country India and what an effective message it sends out to the enemies of humanity.

Normally a country with adorable levels of tolerance and goodwill, always waiting for others to respond positively to all such tragedies, suddenly transforms its ‘soft response’ into ‘hot pursuit’ and for the first time conducts a joint operation with a neighbouring country on a Mission Counter-Terrorism. How did it come about? Well, precisely because post May-2014 India have had a strong government installed at the centre with a strong Prime Minister whose sterling qualities and innovative approach have already established him a visionary cum leader.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had just returned from a visit to Bangladesh—a strategic neighbouring country whose cooperation in crucial areas can always be game changing. Immediately thereafter into the late night hours he okayed the ‘hot pursuit’ and allowed the Indian Army to strike back. Zero Tolerance against terrorism was announced with a lot of meaningfulness and effectiveness now. The earlier government too pursued a policy of zero tolerance against so many evils, but that was mere policy with the so-called ‘coalition politics’ dominating and making the government bite the dust so often. To be precise, India did not have a strong Prime Minister or a strong government that time.

Since taking over the helms on 26th May, 2014 Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been leading from the front with innovative schemes-projects and a fresh interactive approach taking even the common people into confidence. ‘Policy Paralysis’ of the earlier government is long past and gone. His people-oriented economic-financial-social schemes have been welcomed all over and are benefiting millions. He has been cheered as hero whatever foreign country he has visited in the past one year—from America-Europe to China-Japan-Mongolia-Myanmar-Bangladesh. His fan following all over the globe is getting bigger and bigger threatening that of the mega film stars. What is important, Narendra Modi has been doing the right things in the right places—understanding perfectly what is required to be done in what areas as far as a particular foreign nation is concerned. The Indian Prime Minister is ushering in a unique kind of diplomacy be it with President Obama or Sheikh Hasina. If the fringe elements of his political party and associated organizations finally see reason and understand the Indian realities the Narendra Modi government would be the best option for India in the years to come.

The Indian Army operation has been hailed all over the nation with even rival political parties unable to politicize the development. The Indian Government has made it loud and clear that this operation is intended to convey a message to all aggressors or terrorists and the countries supposedly assisting and abetting them. The era of ‘tolerance and softness’ is over and from now onwards any act of aggression or any terror attack or sponsored terror attack on Indian territory or on Indian civilians would not be tolerated and would be retaliated with dire consequences inside or outside India. Although the Government did not specifically point out the crucial neighbour for this message is indeed Pakistan—a nation ravaged by terror and forced to comply with terror. Pakistan must understand better now and must make an effort to put an end to its state of eternal denial. The final target is lasting peace only.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Cricket: India Vs Bangladesh One-Off Test Begins Tomorrow!

Mushfiqur Rahim 
The one-off Test match between India and Bangladesh begins tomorrow at Fatullah near Dhaka. Two points would make this match quite interesting. First, as we have mentioned earlier the host team cannot be taken lightly any more, at least in One-Day Internationals, after its strong performances in the World Cup-2015 and the recent series against Pakistan. Second, the bitter aftermath of the World Cup quarter final in March this year between the two teams sort of makes this a ‘revenge’ match for Bangladesh players and fans.
Virat Kohli
There were views about bad umpiring decisions that led to the rather untenable view that India robbed Bangladesh of a World Cup semi-final berth—the margin of defeat and the form of Team India at that time are pointers that India would not have lost the match under any circumstances. The ‘views’ were so strong that Mustafa Kamal who alleged Indian bias resigned as the President of the ICC. Anyway, cricket Tests nowadays need such ‘spices’ to make up for its diminishing appeal. Of course, players from both teams feel that this would not affect their relations as they moved ahead and past is past.

Indian Strategy With Ravi Shastri?
Virat Kohli will lead the Indian team for this Test while Mushfiqur Rahim leads Bangladesh amidst reports that the latter may not keep wickets due to an injury. Team India is full strength with the addition of the great spinner having 413 scalps, Harbhajan Singh who was recalled thanks to his spirited performances recently. India have won six of the seven Tests played so far against Bangladesh and they start as favourites. For Bangladesh batsman Mominul Haque would be eager to match South Africa’s AB de Villiers’ world record of scoring a half century in 12 consecutive Tests by getting just one more fifty. It is certain that the home team would give a tough fight and Virat’s captaincy would be really tested.

After this solitary Test there will be three ODIs on June 18, 21 and 24 during this short India tour of Bangladesh. Mahendra Singh Dhoni will lead the team in the one-day matches. Some good cricket can be safely expected.

The Teams:

Bangladesh: (From) Mushfiqur Rahim (capt), Tamim Iqbal, Imrul Kayes, Mominul Haque, Shakib Al Hasan, Soumya Sarkar, Litton Das, Nasir Hossain, Shuvagata Hom, Abul Hasan, Jubair Hossain, Taijul Islam, Rubel Hossain, Mohammad Shahid.

India: (From) Virat Kohli (capt), Murali Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma, Wriddhiman Saha, Ravichandran Ashwin, Harbhajan Singh, Karn Sharma, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Umesh Yadav, Varun Aaron, Ishant Sharma.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

The Maggi Muddle!

Repeated food safety tests across India confirmed the presence of poisonous lead and a chemical monosodium glutamate, widely known as MSG in the famous 2-minute Maggi noodles. First the capital Delhi banned the noodles for 15 days and then state after state of the country started following suit. On Friday, the 5th of June, 2015 Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) ordered Nestle, the company producing Maggi, to recall all nine variants of the noodles from the Indian market. After that branches of FSSAI got into action in states like Maharashtra, Meghalaya and others too where the ban was not yet announced pending test reports or non-conclusive results. 

Even after all these serious developments Nestle refuses to admit that their noodles are not really fit for consumption, particularly for the innocent children who were too fond of it, or that at least some serious problems could be present. Obsessed perhaps with the need for damage control to prevent huge losses the company attributes the findings as 'confusion' and says that the noddles will return to the shelves very soon. They are trying to prove that all the tests done across India are wrong and that testing standards in the country are very poor. 

Nestle must understand that the 'confusion' is in fact created by them only and not that the 'confusion' has damaged their products. They are trying to mislead the consumers. In most parts of the country consumers do not have proper awareness about food safety and related issues, and they do not want to give up their food habits easily. The noodles have been in their homes for around thirty years making them almost accustomed to provide 2-minute meals to their children. Now with the company's so-called assurances that could have been passed on by the dealers spread across the country most ot them who are not very media-savvy are finding it difficult to decide. 

Confusing reactions are being heard all over. Most people would want to know why nothing was found wrong in the past thirty years and why now only. Well, they must understand that a wrong remains a wrong irrespective of when it is finally detected and they should appreciate the fact that it is found out before serious health problems could actually occur. Some others are stoic or indifferent, 'how does it matter, if you like eat it, if you do not want don't eat! Who has died eating Maggi?'. Or 'As long as I find it in the stores I'll continue eating it!' Some other reactions border on the ridiculous and absurd. 'You see, this whole thing is being orchestrated by a political party who could not get enough funds from Nestle in the last elections!' Well, in India everything gets politicized. But you also need to know that eating is not normally a political issue and that states of all political hues and colors across India are in fact banning the noodles. 

In the recent years most of the popular fast foods are being categorized as junk food which are harmful for health due to the numerous dubious ingredients found there. But no serious efforts have been made by any government to create awareness about fast food or junk food. Food safety is a must. Now is the time for starting campaigns similar to 'no tobacco' ones in relation to all packaged and junk food that are harmful or could be harmful. The FSSAI too must go hammer and tongs to improve its stadards and ensure food safety for all citizens of the country. 

Friday, June 5, 2015

The Fiefdoms And The Chieftains!

He was right royally amused by what happened—not only by the reactions, but more by the deep-rooted feeling of a rather inexplicable insecurity embedded in them.

He was new to the city and was trying to gather as much information as possible about the local traditions, customs, linguistic-cultural characteristics and other significant happenings. That day while rummaging through the newspapers, he came to know about an important event taking place in the city. Deciding not to miss it he told his assistant to find out how his office could participate in the proceedings.

The assistant immediately opined that Mr B…was very well known to the concerned organizers and so that person should be the right channel to go through. He knew Mr B… well enough to understand that he was one of the integral parts of the office. “Okay…” he said, “Tell him to arrange.”

After some time, Mr B…called him.
“Hello sir…I came to know you wanted to participate in the event. I…”
“Oh yes! Please arrange it then.”
“…I am very well known to all of the organizers. They depend on me for everything…”
“Good. Then there is no problem at all. Please make the arrangements.”
“…For years I have been the only intermediary between this office and them. Once I tell them they never fail us…”
He decided to listen through. He understood exactly what that person desired of him—that he should have contacted Mr B…directly and first-hand for that job. Why go through the assistant…why not he was wise enough to realize that! And of course…eventually that particular affair proved to be a tremendous success.

Within a short time in the office he could identify quite a few self-styled ‘influential’ representatives of the office for the outside world. He willingly recognized their ‘influence’ so that work went on smoothly and in a coordinated way. Anyway, he was not a local and being new with hardly any personal contacts he had no other options. Not that he did not try a ‘direct approach’ and to build new work relationships. In fact, he developed quite a few satisfying ones and wanted to expand on that by directing other co-workers to open a new directory enlisting all important personalities of the city in all fields of activities with their contact information. That never happened.

He knew exactly why. Mr A…was the most important ingredient of the office dealing almost daily with all happenings in the city that essentially involved key people in power. He was so obsessed with his ‘influence’ that he never gave up anything to others, monopolised all tasks and stuck to these even if he failed to complete some on time. His ‘contacts’ were fiercely guarded and he commanded most of the office people who owed unconditional allegiance to him for their sustenance. Therefore, thanks to the influential As or Bs or Cs that particular assignment never managed to see the light of day. Initially, he himself did try to get some key contact information from Mr A…and realized his mistake as on some excuse or other the required information was never given.

He did not regret what he confronted; neither did it impair his work. In fact this experience was not at all new to him. He was never a local in any place in his life. In his childhood days his family moved from town to town, because his father was employed by the government and transfers were regular. Being a local one could pursue something and prosper eventually by virtue of the continuity and the authenticity of ‘belonging’. For him his acquired expertise in a certain activity in a certain place ended the moment he was out and gone. So often he analysed it himself, ‘If you are not a local, you miss out on many things—nobody takes you seriously enough to continue with you. And if you do not speak the local language then it is the worst. You are fated to remain a stranger even after spending most part of your career there.’

It was the flip side of this phenomenon that never failed to amuse him. Irrespective of the power or limelight or prosperity or monopoly they continue to enjoy the locals suffered from a constant sense of insecurity. They would compulsively want to hold on to their ‘fiefdoms’ eternally lest someone ‘worthy or superior’ from the outside world came in and robbed them out of their ‘assured’ existence. ‘They never try to advise you too much; they never try to help you too much; they never try to introduce you to important circles too much; at times they try to shut you off completely fearing you have already attained some attention. All this due to their embedded sense of insecurity,’ he mused so often.

At times he felt furious, at times frustrated and at times he felt almost helpless. However, there was always a way out. And, despite all the power blocks one could still succeed in one’s pursuit, he told himself. It was more of amusement than regrets, he decided. 

Monday, June 1, 2015

Newsroom Humor: The Visual Nut!

The news editor was in a very disturbed state of mind that evening. He was new to the newsroom of the television channel, its surroundings, and that made it all the more irritating. It was in the most biting phase of the winter and his newsroom pals seemed to be more interested in sitting cosily closer to their burning warm electric heaters chattily chewing betel nuts than anything else. There was the onset of a threatening lethargy that the hapless news editor tried to resist with all his might. He had to ensure that the most important story of that day got included in the bulletins.

The story was written and ready, but somehow the visuals were eluding everyone. Again and again, the tape was inserted in the video editing machines and checked. No visuals emerged on the monitors. What happened? Furious, the news editor wanted to know. The camera unit was there for the coverage and stayed there full length of the event. Then?

The editor called the concerned executive for explanations. The fellow came in with a benign smile busy chewing a mouthful of betel nut and paan. As the editor started questioning the smile transformed into a grin and his chewing hardly stopped.

“Why there are no visuals?”
“Well, Sir, you see…we tried and tried. But no visuals…!”
“But how could it happen? The cameraman was there all the time with his camera.”
“Sir you see…he is the only cameraman here…lots of pressure…for everything he is the only…”
“But he was there with the camera. The visuals had to be there.”
“…He is also lonely here…no family…no good food…many many problems…!”
“But what happened to the visuals?”
“Sir, I asked the poor guy…he forgot to press the record button sir…he is so hard pressed…!”
“O’ my God! He did not need to press it so hard I suppose! How much strength does the poor starving guy require for that exercise?”

The executive broke into a broad grin and started chewing vigorously. The editor looked into the barren ceiling above fearing a rain of betel nuts falling on him and submerging him…
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