Friday, February 24, 2006

Long live Sourav Ganguly

By John Cheeran
Where are the protesters, where are the TV studio experts?
And where is Jagmohan Dalmiya?
Is Dalmiya there in Calcutta?
The sepulchral silence in Calcutta and elsewhere that greeted the announcement of Indian team for Nagpur Test shows that the fight is over.
And winner is Team India!
It was no surprise that Indian team selectors did not have any time for Sourav Ganguly.
Ganguly’s exclusion from the Test team to face England in Nagpur is one of the sensible move by the new regime in Indian cricket.
India should now look forward, not stop its progress to wait for players who live in their past glory.
India should identify its future Tendulkars and Dravids to strengthen their middle order.
Time has ran out for Ganguly, and in the next two years we will see the decline of Tendulkar and Dravid in much sharper relief, however unpleasant the thought may be.
Ganguly will not be missed by anyone but Bengalis as the developments during the Pakistan tour firmly shut the door on him.
Yuvraj Singh’s emergence as a player who can handle the gravest of situations in the middle has helped selectors to quickly tear the Ganguly card.
It is quite another matter that Yuvraj has to miss out the Nagpur Test owing to injury.
It is just not his friend Singh who has been troubling Ganguly.
A host of youngsters – Suresh Raina, Venugopala Rao and Pujara – are knocking on the doors of Indian dressing room. And I even forgot to mention the curious case of Mohammad Kaif.
At one level, Ganguly should not quit the game.
He still has it in him to contribute towards the development of cricket in West Bengal.
But it would be better for Ganguly to ease his pain if he could realize that Team India does not need him any longer.
Long live Ganguly.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Does God play cricket?

By John Cheeran
Does God play cricket?
May be or may not be.
By all accounts, some of the Indian cricketers do believe that God plays cricket.
This is a thought that has been living with me for quite sometime.
Only when I read about Sreesanth’s admission on how he transformed himself into a four-wickets taker in the Karachi one-dayer from being a wicket-less trundler in the earlier matches, I came back to it.
In Karachi, Sreesanth came on to bowl with a new t-shirt, with a new number, 36.
I don’t remember what number was allotted to young Sreesanth by the team management in earlier matches.
But according to the story from Kochi, after Indian fielders dropped four catches off his bowling , Sreesanth consulted his Kerala team manager and finally sought advice from an astrologer called Joshi in Mumbai. It is the Mumbai astrologer who gave Sreesanth his lucky number 36. It adds up to nine, which spells fortune for the young Indian bowler.
It must be true, if you look at the number of wickets that came Sreesanth’s way.
This time Indian fielders held all catches that came their way when Sreesanth bowled. So number therapy works.
Sreesanth is a Gurvayoorappan devotee, much like the former Kerala chief minister K. Karunakaran.
It is an open secret that whenever Sreesanth plays a lamp burns in his pooja room in Kochi. And I have seen Sreesanth going through a silent prayer each time he begins his run up.
Months earlier, another young boy named Sourav Ganguly consulted another Mumbai astrologer, Bejan Daruwala. This boy from Calcutta performed round the clock poojas when he was with in the Indian team.
He also arranged protest poojas on Calcutta streets but right now has no takers in Indian cricket.
Apparently everyone has a reason to pray.
I believe in God, and can understand Sreesanth, Ganguly and their prayers.
But I also believe that sometimes best of our prayers are our actions.
What we do on the field, what we do within ourselves.
God’s bounties are limitless anyway.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Globalization rocks US ports in DP World deal

By John Cheeran
The United States has been the fountainhead of globalization.
I have no qualms with globalization.
I believe Communism has been one of the powerful forces of globalization.
All ideas are. All faiths are.
To resist globalization is a Herculean task.
Like the United States finding now in the case DP World deal.
The multi-billion deal for the handling of six major US ports, including New York and New Jersey, was won by a UAE firm, Dubai Port World (DP World.)
US senators, cutting across ideological divide, are anxious that George Bush’s move to give the license to the UAE firm will threaten US security and will give Al Qaeda men easy conduit to conduct their dirty deal much more easily now.
Anxiety stems from the backdrop of September 11, when some of the terrorists involved came from the UAE. There were reports that the UAE was the base terrorists used for money laundering.
Critics in the US have termed Bush’s move as “outrageous and reckless.”
New York Times, in an editorial, has demanded the reversal of the contract.
But let me say this. These are the perils of globalization. What is good for DP World may not be good for the United States.
But DP World won its contract through legitimate means, through the conventional ways, through open contracts.
There is nothing wrong in that.
In the era of globalization, national boundaries blur and the highest bidder walk way with the deal, if anything is up for grabs, anywhere in the world.
May be US will propose an amendment to globalization for security reasons.
This, indeed, is a fascinating battle.

The irrelevance of Sourav Ganguly in Indian cricket

By John Cheeran
What next for Sourav Ganguly?
Defeated and disgraced in Pakistan, and denied of the one-day glory, the former Indian captain has no takers, not even in Calcutta.
The way skipper Rahul Dravid scripted India’s rousing comeback in one-day series has crushed the final hopes of Ganguly and his friends.
A 4-1 drubbing in favour of Pakistan was what Calcutta was praying for.
But to their disbelief, the reverse has happened.
All poojas and yagnas have failed to breathe life into Ganguly’s career.
Why the streets of Calcutta quiet now?
Why Bengali MPs have fallen silent? Why critics of Dravid and Greg Chappell have fled the scene?
There is no better answer than victory, and a comprehensive one, against Pakistan to defeat Calcutta’s professional protesters.
Man, India is winning. India is winning more than it is losing.
And it is all happening under Rahul Dravid and Greg Chappell.
This team does not need Sourav Ganguly’s arrogance to take care of itself.
It is no wonder that Ajit Wadekar, a seasoned cricket watcher, and former Indian captain and coach has advised Ganguly to call it quits.
It is time for Ganguly to embrace reality.
The irrelevance of Ganguly should be a lesson for India’s current and future cricketers.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Will Sreesanth prove more than a lucky mascot?

By John Cheeran
On the only occasion when India won the World Cup, there was a rare element in that squad led by Kapil Dev – Sunil Walson, a Malayalee fast bowler.
Walson, the Delhi-based player, did not play any matches in the tournament, but his mere presence was an inspiration for Keralites to fall in love with cricket.
Now as Rahul Dravid plots his moves in quest of 2007 World Cup another Malayalee could well play a match-winning role.
I’m talking about Sreesanth, the young pacer who has won acclaim during the Pakistan tour from such greats as Imran Khan and Waqar Younis.
This youngster from Kochi purchases disconcerting lift from the pitch.
He has a lovely action and has a willingness to work really hard.
Sreesanth has been without luck in quite a few matches as in the fourth one-dayer against Pakistan when almost four catches were dropped off his bowling. But in the last game in Karachi, coming in as a first change bowler Sreesanth put the brakes on Pakistan innings, picking up four wickets in the process.
Unlike Walson, Sreesanth is more than a lucky mascot, for Rahul Dravid’s India.
But to stay in the Indian team Sreesanth will have to bend his back more.
Much before Sreesanth Kerala gave Indian cricket Tinu Yohannan.
Yohannan showed early promise but it did not take much time before he lost his place in the national squad.
Many in Kerala do believe that had Sourav Ganguly supported Yohannan, much the same way Dravid is now encouraging Sreesanth, India would have got a dependable bowler.
But Sreesanth’s success at the highest level should make Yohannan work hard more and keep the contest for places in Team India at a fever pitch.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Who can defuse Dhoni?

By John Cheeran
When Kapil Dev used to walk into the middle with India gasping for breath, the good old radio commentator used to say that complexion of the game is going to be changed.
Sometimes the match did turn on its head.
Most often it did not.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni brings to the crease the kind of buzz Kapil used to generate years ago. Dhoni, in a brief time, has emerged as India’s executioner of enemies, par excellence.
Dhoni relies on the raw energy of milk and muscle to hammer the ball out of the park, to use a cliché, to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat for India.
MSD is not just a flash in the pan.
MSD is the nuclear warhead Indian captain Rahul Dravid can use to annihilate the opposition whether in one-dayers or in Tests.
The great quality about Dhoni is that he knows no fear; and is brave to cross the limits, whatever it is.
There were skeptics who questioned Dhoni’s durability as a stroke maker when he lashed out in the beginning of the season against Sri Lanka.
The just concluded Pakistan series should answer those critics.
To his credit, Dhoni has proved that he is no Atul Bedade or V.B. Chandrasekhar.
Dhoni knows how to build an innings, read the match situation and act accordingly rather than launch into a suicidal flurry of strokes and perish after a couple of miscued boundaries.
Dhoni is here to stay; Dhoni is here to take the battle to the rival camp.
And let him take advice from President Musharraf as far as a hair cut is concerned.

Yuvraj Singh is pure gold

By John Cheeran
From the fringes to the center stage of the Indian team.
Yuvraj Singh’s transformation as a mature, dependable middle order batsman was complete in Karachi.
India had cast Ganguly away and Yuvraj Singh, in quite an authoritative fashion, filled the vacant slot.
Imagine, in the beginning of this season during the home series against Sri Lanka, Yuvraj Singh was battling a lean patch.
Ganguly, considered to be Yuvraj’s thick friend, was out in the wilderness and there was a new order in Indian cricket.
As Ganguly was struggling to make a comeback into the side, the Calcutta lobby was demanding for Yuvraj’s head.
But skipper Rahul Dravid and coach Greg Chappell had faith in Punjab ka Puttar. Dravid lent captain’s support during the rainy day to Yuvraj and see, how it has paid off.
From the brink of exit, Yuvraj Singh has cemented his place both in one-dayers and Test squad with scintillating innings against South Africa and now in Pakistan.
Yuvraj Singh is pure gold.
Only thing is that in cricket, anything and anyone can turn rusty.
Pluck and hard work should help Yuvraj Singh to keep his talents polished in the days to come. Yuvraj Singh, unlike his former mentor Sourav Ganguly, does not flinch away from fast bowling. His Test century in Karachi was proof of his class.
And his one-day hundred in Karachi, on the last day of the tour, revealed how mature he has become a player. He paces innings well, leaves the tempting ones well and hits it off well.
No wonder the team management made Yuvraj the vice-captain for this game in the absence of Virender Sehwag.
No wonder he has emerged as man-of-the-match in Karachi and man-of-the series in one-dayers.
Future beckons this brave man.
Carry on, Prince!

India assert their class in Karachi

By John Cheeran
The eight-wicket win that Rahul Dravid’s India carved out against Pakistan at Karachi, though in an inconsequential game, has its own merits.
I cannot recall an occasion when India ever beat Pakistan in a series by such a big margin as 4-1. That too in Pakistan.
This big margin of victory would not have come even in other disciplines, hockey, football, kabaddi or whatever.
That makes me say that no game is inconsequential when India is playing against Pakistan, especially in cricket.
A 4-1 margin of series win is a great morale booster compared to, what could have been a 3-2 margin, again in favour of India.
It could have been 5-0 in favour of India, if not bad light done India in the first game.
All that is history now.
But I would rate the win in Karachi as the best achieved by India in a long, long time in one-day cricket.
It was a perfect chase; an eight-wicket win, chasing 286, with three overs to spare must be perfect, isn’t it?
India was without Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag and Irfan Pathan, three key players who have been the bulwarks of the side in the recent past.
Apparently skipper Dravid had a plan for this chase, which could have gone terribly wrong, if the finer points were not executed as superbly as India – namely Yuvraj Singh and Mahendra Singh Dhoni – did today.
It was a big target, but the idea was not to flail the bat at the ball from the very beginning and precipitate a crisis. Don’t panic was the message.
Dravid opened and played anchor’s role very well. Dravid threw his wicket away at the right moment when he was finding it a bit tiresome to step up the pace. MSD was brought in at the right time.
Quite a few Indian hearts were missing their beats first when Dravid and Yuvraj let the asking rate climb to almost to nine; later Yuvraj and Dhoni did the same.
This was a confident India, under Rahul Dravid and Greg Chappell. There is a time to do certain things. And Dhoni did it through some lusty hitting well after the final ten overs began.
Suddenly it all looked too simple, too easy.
Could you believe it that this can happen, of all the places in Karachi, where India lost the Test and the series a few weeks ago?
Dravid has picked up the broken pieces from the Test series defeat to organize a comprehensive demolition of Pakistan in a short time.
Leadership, consistency and imagination.
Indian skipper has displayed these three qualities in abundance in this crucial series.
More power to Dravid and Chappell.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

India hit back at Pakistan in style

By John Cheeran
An impressive team effort has given India a seven wicket win in the second one-dayer against Pakistan.
A win, in the one-day arena, has little to gloat about these days. It does not really reveal a side’s strengths and weaknesses. It has more to do with context.
For India and Rahul Dravid the victory has more meaning and value than the mere difference in total between both teams.
Coming in the backdrop of the defeat in the Karachi Test and first one-dayer, this Rawalpindi result will restore the balance in the series and shore up the morale of the tourists.
Top guns of Indian batting – Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Yuvraj Singh have come good that should calm the gathering storm in the Indian camp.
It’s time to build on this victory and clinch the one-day series.

Defending the freedom of expression

It comes as a fascinating piece of news that an edition of the staid The Times of India carried the caricatures on Prophet Mohammad. Patna ToI did it!
This, I must say, is a historic moment for decentralisation of power in Indian newspapers.
Now to the question of freedom of the press. I have seen some of the caricatures in the news, including, the turban bomb one.
Here I reproduce a great piece of journalism by Charles Moore in the Daily Telegraph, London.
How I wish all those who in the Indian media pause to read this cracker of a comment piece.
-John Cheeran

Now read Charles Moore

If you get rid of the Danes, you'll have to keep paying the Danegeld
By Charles Moore
It's some time since I visited Palestine, so I may be out of date, but I don't remember seeing many Danish flags on sale there.
Not much demand, I suppose. I raise the question because, as soon as the row about the cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed in Jyllands-Posten broke, angry Muslims popped up in Gaza City, and many other places, well supplied with Danish flags ready to burn. (In doing so, by the way, they offered a mortal insult to themost sacred symbol of my own religion, Christianity, since the Danish flag has across on it, but let that pass.)
Why were those Danish flags to hand? Who built up the stockpile so that they could be quickly dragged out right across the Muslim world and burnt where television cameras would come and look? The more you study this story of "spontaneous" Muslim rage, the odder it seems.
The complained-of cartoons first appeared in October; they have provoked such fury only now. As reported in this newspaper (The Daily Telegraph) yesterday, it turns out that a group of Danish imams circulated the images to brethren in Muslim countries.
When they did so, they included in their package three other, much more offensive cartoons which had not appeared in Jyllands-Posten but were lumped together so that many thought they had.
It rather looks as if the anger with which all Muslims are said to be burning needed some pretty determined stoking. Peter Mandelson, who seems to think that his job as European Trade Commissioner entitles him to pronounce on matters of faith and morals, accuses the papers that republished the cartoons of "adding fuel to the flames"; but those flames were lit(literally, as well as figuratively) by well-organised, radical Muslims who wanted other Muslims to get furious. How this network has operated would make a cracking piece of investigative journalism.
Now the BBC announces that the head of the International Association of Muslim Scholars has called for an"international day of anger" about the cartoons. It did not name this scholar, or tell us who he is. He is Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi.
According to Ken Livingstone, the Mayor of London, Qaradawi is like Pope John XXIII for Catholics, "the most progressive force for change" in the Muslim world. Yet if you look up Qaradawi's pronouncements, you find that he sympathises with the judicial killing of homosexuals, and wants the rejection of dialogue with Jewsin favour of "the sword and the rifle".
He is very keen on suicide bombing, especially if the people who blow themselves up are children - "we have the children bomb". This is a man for whom a single "day of anger" is surely little different from the other 364 days of the year. Which leads me to question the extreme tenderness with which so many governments and media outlets in the West treat these outbursts of outrage. It is assumed that Muslims have a common, almost always bristling, view about their faith, which must be respected.
Of course it is right that people's deeply held beliefs should be treated courteously, but it is a great mistake - made out of ignorance - to assume that those who shout the loudest are the most representative. This was the error in the case in Luton, where a schoolgirl's desire to wear the jilbab was upheld in the erroneous belief that this is what Islam demands. In fact, the girl was backed by an extremist group, and most of the other Muslims at the school showedno inclination to dress in full-length gowns like her.
It's as if the Muslimworld decided that the views of the Rev Ian Paisley represented the whole of authentic Christianity. There is no reason to doubt that Muslims worry very much about depictions of Mohammed. Like many, chiefly Protestant, Christians, they fear idolatry. But, as I write, I have beside me a learned book about Islamic art and architecture which shows numerous Muslim paintings from Turkey, Persia, Arabia and so on. These depict the Prophet preaching, having visions, being fed by his wet nurse, going on his Night-Journey to heaven, etc.
The truth is that in Islam, as in Christianity, not everyone agrees about what is permissible. Some of these depictions are in Western museums. What will the authorities do if the puritan factions within Islam start calling for them to be removed from display (this call has been made, by the way, about a medieval Christian depiction of the Prophet in Bologna)? Will their feeling of "offence"outweigh the rights of everyone else? Obviously, in the case of the Danish pictures, there was no danger of idolatry, since the pictures were unflattering.
The problem, rather, was insult. But I am a bit confused about why someone like Qaradawi thinks it is insulting to show the Prophet's turban turned into a bomb, as one of the cartoons does. He never stops telling us that Islam commands its followers to blow other people up.
If we take fright whenever extreme Muslims complain, we put more power in their hands. If the Religious Hatred Bill had passed unamended this week, it would have been an open invitation to any Muslim who likes getting angry to try to back his anger with the force of law. Even in its emasculated state, the Bill will still encourage him, thus stirring the ill-feeling its authors say they want to suppress.
On the Today programme yesterday, Stewart Lee, author of Jerry Springer: The Opera - in which Jesus appears wearing nappies - let the cat out of the bag. He suggested that it was fine to offend Christians because they had themselves degraded their iconography; Islam, however, has always been more "conscientious about protecting the brand".
The implication of the remark is fascinating. It is that the only people whose feelings artists, newspapers and so on should consider are those who protest violently. The fact that Christians nowadays do not threaten to blow up art galleries, invade television studios or kill writers and producers does not mean that their tolerance is rewarded by politeness.
It means that they are insulted the more. Right now, at the fashionable White Cube Gallery in Hoxton, you can see the latest work of Gilbert and George, mainly devoted, it is reported, to attacks on the Catholic Church. The show is called Sonofagod Pictures and it features the head of Christ on the Cross replaced with that of a primitive deity. One picture includes the slogan "God loves F***ing".
Like most Christians, I find this offensive, but I think I must live with the offence in the interests of freedom. If I find, however, that people who threaten violence do have the power to suppress what they dislike, why should I bother to defend freedom any more?
Why shouldn't I ring up the Hon Jay Jopling,the proprietor, and tell him that I shall burn down the White Cube Gallery unless he tears Gilbert and George off the walls?
I won't, I promise, but how much longer before some Christians do? The Islamist example shows that it works.
There is a great deal of talk about responsible journalism, gratuitous offence, multicultural sensitivities and so on. Jack Straw gibbers about the irresponsibility of the cartoons, but says nothing against the Muslims threatening death in response to them. I wish someone would mention the word that dominates Western culture in the face of militant Islam - fear.
And then I wish someone would face it down.
John Cheeran at Blogged