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Friday, November 27, 2015

Cricket: Spin-India Wins Freedom Trophy Test Series Against South Africa!

India got the best pitch possible to seal the Freedom Test Series against South Africa by winning the third test match in Nagpur in less than three days again thus taking an unassailable 2-0 lead in the four-match Series. Spinners of India won the first test in Mohali in less than three days and could have repeated the feat in Bengaluru too had rains not intervened from the second day onwards. Bravo India for pitching in perfectly in the perfect kind of pitches provided with perfection by the perfect supporters of Indian cricket. All cricket action at the moment seems to be so spin-oriented that India opted for just one pacer in the squad for the Nagpur test in the form of Ishant Sharma and yet he hardly bowled. The pitch was referred to as ‘diabolic’ by some while for the Indian fans it should described as ‘historic’. Yes, when India win it is always historic and when they lose it is always ‘unfavourable conditions’.

Look at the scores. India won the toss and electing to bat first struggled to make 215. South Africa replied with 79—the lowest by any team against India in Tests. India struggled to make 173 in the second innings. However, they knew with a lead of 309 runs they would surely win and win overwhelmingly. There was not a single fifty by any, forget about glorious Test centuries. Only spin that accounted for the fall of 20 wickets on the second day. And India's best bowler R Ashwin (happens to be a spinner okay) takes a total of 12 scalps.  The Scorecard:

Like the Mohali pitch the Nagpur pitch too was never known for such kind of ‘turn’around behaviour. These pitches were of course ‘lifeless’ for the short-format games and ‘good batting tracks’ for test matches. A special memory is associated with Nagpur.

Way back in 2004 in the month of October. It was a tour of Australia and the four-match Test Series was being played. Australia were leading the series 1-0 with Nagpur hosting the third match. The series was at stake—if Australia won they would conquer the last frontier since 1969-70 under Steve Waugh and India had to win it to stay alive in the series for a possible win in the last test. The stakes were very high especially for Indian captain Sourav Ganguly who led the team to a spectacular victory over Australia in 2000-01 series in India. And it was a green top waiting for him in Nagpur. Maybe the curator was a bold fellow believing in the spirit of the game who refused to mend the pitch to a spinning one even after being put under tremendous pressure. Some other experts ascribed the factional fights within the BCCI as the main reason for the curator’s defiance.

Whatever be the reasons the ‘conditions’ definitely did not favour India even at home. The lush green cover deflated the Indians while it energised Steve Waugh's invincible Aussies. On the morning of the first day captain Ganguly opted out of the match along with his main spin spearhead Harbhajan Singh citing injury issues. It was widely believed that the skipper opted out due to the green top which for him meant sure defeat. And they did lose that test heavily handing over the series win to Australia.

The biggest problem here is the mindset. Like we pointed out last time the Indian cricket team has been consciously following the ‘spin preference’ instead of a balanced bowling attack and depending heavily on this since time immemorial. Okay, once upon a time the spin trio of India—Chandrasekhar, Prasanna and Bedi—was just out of the world which warranted conducive pitches that time at least at home. However, even at that time the pitches took turn from the third or fourth day onwards and on the fifth and last day it was the deadliest. But pray why to follow the same tactics over decades not at all trying to breed, encourage and promote pacers.  Are the team, the team management and the cricket Board just content enough to win at home only treating the away series as aberrations?

Win or no win this is just not cricket. Cricketing experts are defending such pitches as ‘result oriented’. No, this is not result oriented; this is ‘spin oriented allowing the home team to win easily’. You are not supposed to wind up test matches in two or three days. Or is the BCCI considering the possibility of reducing Test matches to just three days instead of five in the interest of the mushrooming and money-spinning cricket ‘revellers’ of the country? Why not? In Indian Cricket it always comes down finally to money matters. India-Pakistan matches have been blockbusters with the big money filling the coffers of both the Boards. Or else why would the BCCI be so desperate to try pressing the Government of India for permission on the very day of the 7th anniversary of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack  by Pakistan backed terrorists some of whom are still roaming free? This is apart from the ceaseless ceasefire violations and killings of jawans and civilians across the LoC. 

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Politics Of Corruption: The Elliptical Embrace!

While with his crusader mentor he was a dedicated and committed worker-activist trying to root out corruption from the face of India. His principles were then in the right place as he was fondly called the right hand of his mentor. However, he had another quality—ambition, and that too was very principled. He perhaps thought that eradicating corruption was a huge task as long as one had to fight a formidable system set in place over the years by corrupt governments. Therefore he thought that the only way to fight corruption effectively had to be from within. He had to have a political entity to enter the system and fight it. And from that moment his ambition took over command keeping principles in abeyance. He left his mentor high and dry and formed a new political party. Rest is history.

Quick-fix developments and growing evidence over the last three years tend to show that Dehli Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) could be the first ever political party in the country to be able to learn the secrets of politics in the shortest possible period of time. AAP has tasted, experimented and executed all forms of politics during this period and showed an exemplary acumen in handling-manipulating-exploiting conditions, even converting non-political conditions into rampant politics. In this light, Kejriwal’s latest antic of embracing Bihar’s Lalu Prasad Yadav in the swearing-in ceremony of the new government led by Nitish Kumar is just one more example of practical politics. In fact, AAP has already clarified that the embrace was only a courteous gesture and that AAP is for Nitish only and never for Lalu.

Maybe for the common people it still stinks. The common people enthusiastically lapped up the idea of a corruption-free society and joined the movement by Anna Hazare en masse. They did not mind when Kejriwal took up the fight politically deserting Anna. They brought him into power allowing his even to compromise to form a ‘common people’ government. They brought him again into power with an unprecedented mandate, forgiving him his ‘compulsion’ to run away from governance in his first chance. And then all his ‘antics’ continued to be on display with his own ‘fighters’ deserting his party or being thrown out unceremoniously. And now, embracing a symbol of corruption and non-performance in full public view, and raising their hands in victory seems maybe little too much for the forgiving public. Furthermore, this is the same personality whom he criticized earlier for being corrupt. Experts say there are no absolutes in politics, but saner politicians or parties need to think twice before being part of an unholy alliance where ‘development’ is absent and only ‘ambition’ is present overwhelmingly. Unfortunately, this is what is happening at the moment with the ‘holy’ aim of thwarting a so-called communal party or alliance.

What is Bihar’s gain from its super-hyped assembly elections? Well, they only gained Nitish who has been a performer for the state. However, facts reveal that Nitish performed better when being part of an alliance with the BJP. Now, with a non-performing but very powerful ally it is bound to be uphill for Nitish to even govern. Lalu Prasad Yadav has the most potent controls in his hands in the forms of his son as Deputy Chief Minister, his other comrades as ministers and a caste-laden government to boot. Plus of course, the Congress—a party totally bankrupt of ideas and just trying to survive on ‘excuses’ provided unawares by some anti-social elements. Even then, the Bihar example is encouraging everyone in opposition to the present government across India to come up with grand alliances of corrupt, non-performing, opportunistic, rejected, degenerate and divisive political entities just to keep the BJP led NDA out. They protest against alleged ‘polarization’ of the country and encourage caste politics even getting close to supporting terrorists just to score points against the present government.

If keeping the BJP out is their idea of having a 'united India'  God help us all. 

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Freedom Series Cricket: India Pitch In To Win Mohali Test Against South Africa!

As is considered only natural in this country the first Test between India and South Africa at Mohali ended within three days. India beat South Africa by 108 runs today to take 1-0 lead in the four-match Freedom Trophy Test Series. This result must have made Team India, the team management, the cricket Board and all cricket mandarins extremely happy and all must be praising the curator at Mohali no holds barred for creating such a wonder of a cricket pitch. Yes, for India at home the ‘pitch’ along with the add-ons of other ‘conditions’ matter most rather than the competitive quality of the game or the application of the Indian batsmen or the ‘strike’ capability of the Indian bowlers. This has been the case for decades now. In the seventies or even eighties we still remember the commentators saying Sunil Gavaskar coming up to open the bowling  with fielders hitting the ball very hard to the ground at every opportunity. This was to make the ball softer as quickly as possible so that the ‘deadly’ spinners could start at the earliest. Such an approach made the Indian fast bowlers redundant and Indian Cricket is suffering.  

At the start of this auspicious Gandhi-Mandela Series or the Freedom Series India lost the three-match T20 Series 2-0 before they could finish their ‘experimentation’. The specialist short-format Captain MS Dhoni was hauled up out of his domestic bliss to lead the team and he, as usual, played his whims and fancies to the fullest—selecting or dropping players at will without considering the amount of cricket played or current ‘form’, changing the batting order at will and continuing to take his usual suspect on-field decisions. India keeping up with the losing spirit through to the Freedom ODI Series lost the first one day international match as the mindless ‘experimentation’ continued.

Order seemed to have been restored by the time the second ODI that India won thanks to an individual effort by Dhoni. This made him feel himself indispensable as he promoted himself up the batting order in third ODI and lost again. The fourth ODI was the best of the series and was won by India putting the series level at 2-2. But then, India cricketers, conditioned by ‘conditions’, were hardly ready for the superlative cricket displayed by South Africa throughout. The Indian bowlers gave away more than 400 runs in the last ODI in Mumbai and lost the match and the series miserably. The frustration was apparent as Team India director lashed out at the Mumbai curator for creating such a pitch. But what was wrong in that pitch? It has been BCCI’s policy to make lifelessly dry and slow pitches for the short format, particularly the IPL, so that heavy fireworks from batsmen could attract more crowds and so more money. What actually went wrong was that the Indian captain could not win the toss and that Team India was caught in its own trap. Then of course, the short-format specialist went back to domestic bliss making way for the Test captain.

Team India could have been trapped at Mohali too had they failed to win the toss or if top order batsmen Murali Vijay and Cheteshwar Pujara failed to put up consistent scores in both innings. That the spinners feasted on the wickets is nothing to write home about. The curator only deserves praise for presenting such an especially ‘under-prepared’ pitch that ushered in collapse after collapse from the two batting sides. Creating such ‘conditions’ at home Team India could win the Test series going up in the rankings, but how would they face the fast-paced pitches abroad.. The ‘redundant’ Indian fast bowlers could get some help abroad, but how the batsmen would muster the art of tackling outside-the-off-stump fast stuff. They no longer have the masters-blasters of yore who could fit in anywhere for the team and many of whom lost out thanks to the obsession of a ‘young’ team As long as cricket continues to be played here for money Indian cricket will continue to suffer and heap more humiliations on the country.

Friday, November 6, 2015

India: What Is This Intolerance Noise All About?

It has been there all the time—maybe sporadic in the past, but consistent in the last few years. We encounter intolerance at every step of our existence. At home, the random husband does not tolerate certain aspects of his wife’s personality while the random wife does not tolerate certain ways of her husband—this is excluding the serious concerns of infidelity or disloyalty. In-laws are hardly tolerated by many particularly in matters relating to money. Children do not tolerate parental ‘advice’. Step out of home and it is worse. Everybody out there is just obsessed of surging ahead of others—does not matter even if it involves pushing or thrashing. Vehicle drivers grimace bitterly at pedestrians for their supposed ‘indulgence’ on the road while the pedestrians lash out at the drivers for their supposed ‘monopoly’ over the roads. Why road rage cases are increasing all the time? Root cause of this is only intolerance. If you only brush against a car in a genuine case of accident without causing any damage you still run the risk of getting even killed. With easy access to weapons some youths shoot at the slightest pretext. And rising crimes against women? Root cause is again intolerance. A male dominated society cannot tolerate the sight of the empowered women. In workplaces many bosses never tolerate subordinates getting credit.

Such pent-up intolerance levels get channelized and organized along caste, linguistic, sociopolitical, religious and regional lines. Any such community then becomes the master to decide what hurts them or what is objectionable which leads to assaults on creative arts—books, movies, paintings or anything. For such communities the political parties come more as ‘ideologies’, and for them any political party coming to power means coming into power of an ideology rather than a provider of governance. In a society bitten into by corruption and nepotism intolerant groups have their way to a large extent for any government any time. History records how effectively a government has handled this menace at any given period.

And what about some of the intelligentsia who are giving up their public awards in protest against intolerance? Why have they noticed this phenomenon only now? It has been a fashion with many of the intellectuals to show off their anti-establishment stance while openly vying for all kinds of favors like cheap flats under special housing quotas, nominations, appointments and even awards. Some of them understand that getting an award allows them hog the limelight only for a short time and therefore perhaps they find it convenient to return the awards for even more attention and limelight. Some ‘experts’ feel that the present government has polarized the society, but intolerance has already done that. And, even the intelligentsia is getting polarized hopelessly into two distinct sections—one for returning and the other for not returning. Intellectuals—authors, artistes, filmmakers and all—have the power of the pen or the glamour to influence the hapless masses. So, why have they not considered making  even a belated campaign against intolerance trying to find out the root causes of the evil. For them, the ‘wing’ culture is so very important. Having a ‘left-wing’ leaning or being a downright ‘leftist’ is the heavenly thing inspiring them to look at all other ‘wings’ as dirty bourgeois entities, and this has a very important bearing on what they have demonstrated at the present juncture.

Mention has also to be made of the ‘commentators’ featured on news channels on raging debates on intolerance for being so intolerant of the others opinion—talking over each other, fingering, gesticulating and plain shouting. This is the inevitable result of a polarized society not due to government but to intolerance.

One theory is also gaining ground all the time behind this facade of ‘protesting intolerance’. That is, visionary Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been emerging as the greatest challenge for the future prospects of all national or regional political parties. His inclusive developmental schemes, Digital India initiative, his innovative direct talk with the people and his spectacularly palpable impact on foreign soil are all set to take India to a never-before level, and this is bound to secure the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government in power for many more years to come. Therefore, all opposition political parties are trying to come together by hook or by crook and to continue with an obstructionist strategy from the floors of Parliament to the streets. At this moment this theory cannot be dismissed easily. Perhaps Narendra Modi could not have happened to India at a better and more crucial juncture than this.

If we are not tolerant we cannot blame the government for that, we have only ourselves to blame. However, with a strong Prime Minister at the helm of a strong nation we can definitely hope for the best.
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