Wednesday, August 23, 2006

A trophy for Sathyan?

By John Cheeran
Many had stopped by at this blog to pay their respects to former Indian football captain and doughty defender V.P. Sathyan. I thank them all and would like to leave them with an idea of having a trophy in his name in Indian football.
It is easy to sponsor a trophy but tough to stage a tournament worthy of Sathyan's illustrious name and deeds.
Last week, deep in Kerala, an intra-district school sports games had instituted a trophy in Sathyan's name. The football event for under-12 school kids staged in Malappuram district is a small step to honur one of India's finest footballers.
At Sathyan's hasty retreat from life, it was whispered that Kerala Football Association was planning to stage a benefit match for him. What's happening to that proposed match? Is it on?
I'm keen to know.
I suggest KFA should actively pursue the idea of having a tournament to honour Sathyan.
In a tournament-starved Kerala, there would not be any lack of spectators for the event. And it would be a great crime if we just wait for KFA to do everything in this regard.
Sathyan's former team mates, and all active and veteran footballers especially in Kerala should hold a brain-storming session to discuss the feasibility of the project and make things happen.
I request anyone who care to read this to comment on the issue.
Footballers may die, let not football die.

Pakistan: A rogue nation, a rogue XI

By John Cheeran
I had slipped away from my desk for a while and interesting things have happened by then and now.
There was drama at the Oval and it fits with a pattern that Pakistan cricketers disgraced themselves on the fourth day of the Test in England. Yes, Darrell Hair has quite a reputation but like the old ad for Lifebuoy soap, wherever Pakistan is, there is trouble.
For them as well as others!
Pakistan cricketers have displayed tendencies similar to suicicde bombers of the Middle East; by refusing or (delaying!) to come back on to the field so that play could resume, Inzamam-ul Haq has proved that what a poor learner he has been as a captain of an international side.
Hair is not the finest of modern umpires, (Peter Roebuck has reminded the readers of Hindu that he should have been cut from the ICC's list years ago, a point Arjuna Ranatunga and other Sri Lankans would readily agree with) but the Aussie umpire had a point to trigger the crisis.
The original sin has been the ball tampering and Pakistan fast bowlers are the masters of manipulating the cricket ball. They have done it in the past to deadly effect; it has to be noted that Pakistan needed to win at Oval at any cost to redeem their pride after losing the second and third Tests. And it is a pity from the Pakistan viewpoint that they frittered away their chances of winning the Test with a great show of injured pride. It was nothing but cricketing suicide..
There is a defining difference between India and Pakistan.
India is a thriving democracy that has withstood threats to its stability and integrity in an admirable fashion whereas Pakistan is a disease that can spread to the subcontinent and even to Mideast.
Pakistan's biggest export in recent times has been terrorism. In a nutshell, Paksitan is a rogue state.
And it shoud not come as a surprise to us that Pakistan cricket team appears as a rogue outfit. No sport team can remain in vacuum and Pakistan's ills as a nation are very much evident in their cricket team.
Again, another occasion when I thank the British for partition!

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Future looks bright except for journalists

By John Cheeran
It is impossible to criticise media organisations.
Newspapers and magazines can criticise anyone. But there will not be any space when criticism is directed against the conscience keepers of the nation.
So how do you bring to light the mischief that goes on in media houses?
Leave alone exposing the frauds in the media, how do you argue for better wages and working conditions for journalists?
It is a difficult task indeed.
Editors in India have no time for reforms in their backyard but preach for quick reforms in rest of the world.
Among the illustrious Indian editors only B.G. Varghese did come up with a proposal that sub-editors should be paid a decent salary, much more than what reporters earn, so as to improve the quality of newspapers.
But B.G.'s proposal was never implemented.
I write these lines after reading Philip Knightley's piece on the Indian media scene in the recent issue of India Today weekly. Knightley's comments are interesting. Let me quote him from India Today. " New newspapers blossomed and today, India is probably the only country where readership is increasing. The future looks bright, except for journalists' wages. They (wages) have never been good and were often paid late. Indian proprietors, like anywhere else, believed that working for their newspaper was sufficient reward."
Yes, Mr Knightley, future looks bright except for journalists.
It was a rare comment in an Indian publication that highlighted the plight of journalists. I have a doubt, though.
Was it a lack of attention from the India Today Copy Desk that let Knightley's critical comment see the light of the day?
It is remarkable that it has taken an outsider to highlight Indian journalists's bleak future as far as salaries are concerned. In this era of Editor-cum Publishers in Indian media, wages of journalists are not news.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Life and Play

By John Cheeran
Are cricketers worthy of their hero status?
May be, cricket writers and fans have equated cricket with life but cricketers in their infinite wisdom have neatly separated the two.
Cricketers pretty much know, better than you and me, when and where cricket begins and ends. So it is not all that difficult to understand the discomfort of South African cricketers in staying on in Sri Lanka in the aftermath of a mine blast that killed seven.
Strife is everywhere.
Sporting life is a dangerous one, at least that's what we believe. If so, cricketers should be more willing to face adversity than we, mere sporting witnesses.
Indian cricketers are silent and have not voiced their apprehensions in the wake of Colombo blast. In the past there have been noises about how unsafe Pakistanis for cricket.
Yes, Pakistan always is a dangerous place, especially for Indians. It is difficult to make a judgement of the current crop of Indian cricketers' character in their response to the Unitech tri-nation one-day series saga.
Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) must have briefed the Indian team management not to make an issue out of security and just carry on playing.
India is vulnerable to terrorism as much as Sri Lanka is. And especially with the Indian sub-continent having gained the rights to host the 2011 World Cup, the BCCI will have to be very tough on security standoffs.
There is no doubt that Indian cricketers must be betting on their survival chances both against bombs and a resurgent Sri Lankan team. It is better for Indian team skipper Rahul Dravid and company to remain tightlipped on both counts.
Living is a much more dangerous game than playing.
God bless you gentlemen.

Thoughts on breaking free

By John Cheeran
Another August 15.
India, that is Bharath, is celebrating its freedom from the British today.
Only when the last of the British left, we realized that it is a really tough job being free.
Over the last 59 years Indians have come to deal with their freedom in an admirable way. There has been considerable progress.
More schools, more buildings, more cars, more television sets, and more sorrows.
Indians have gone forth and multiplied, have done many wondrous things. We have raised the tri-colour, we have celebrated Holy, Eid and Christmas; we have rioted and killed each other; we have rescued each other during calamities and when we were overcome by a terrible wave of human kindness.
Indians have been credible, and incredible over the years.
I'm afraid that Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi's idea of freedom and my idea of freedom are clashing at each other now.
Gandhi wanted India for Indians; now the process of globalization has begun to chisel at the boundaries of the nation states.
Who is an Indian in 2006?
Indians are desperate to flee from the wild party at the dusty street corners to the silicon valley in San Francisco and then get tormented by nostalgia to return home. If India had been under the British rule, with voting rights in the Parliamentary system, we should have been ruling the English by the sheer strength of numbers. Biharis and Tamilians would have stormed Soho. One could have shuttled much more easily between London and Ludhiana.
But we made the British leave India to our eternal regret.
If you ask me what India gained on August 15, 1947 it is this --- freedom from our neighbours.
Partition gave us a great cricket team in Pakistan and gave world the dirtiest nation state on earth.
Thanks to Mohammad Ali Jinnah, who designed and executed (yes, executed) the idea of Pakistan, there is a fence between us and them. And it matters a lot, a lot.
When you think of India's freedom and August 15, 1947, it is tough not to think of Pakistan. Look at Pakistan.
Their bloody problem has been that they cannot accept India for what it is.
Why can't Pakistan celebrate freedom on the same day as Indians do?
Didn't the stroke of midnight bring forth twins?

Sunday, August 13, 2006

What makes suicide bombers tick?

By John Cheeran
What makes suicide bombers tick?
The question attains significance in the backdrop another mid-air massacre scare.
Immediate answer is that religious fanaticism. But dissenting voices, especially the Left, point out that Islamist fascism (the Left is afraid to call Islamist fascism by its name) is a response to the West’s interference in the Islamic empire. Left argues that suicide bombers have political grievance against the West or more bluntly put, the United States of America.
The really interesting point is that Osama Bin Laden and Communists have a common enemy now, USA and George Bush.
Robert Pape of Chicago University has come up the thesis that Islamic suicide bombers are not driven by an intolerant religious ideology but by their political grievances against the West. Pape says the American military presence in a few of the Muslim countries is the reason for the global jihad.
Pape’s argument is built on an inadequate worldview.
Why, then, have Islamic terrorists targeted India and Indians? Has Indian army been deployed in any of the Islamic countries?
So it is not any political grievance that is the issue but religious hatred.
Also what keeps the animosity alive between India and Pakistan? It is not border dispute; it is not Kashmiri nationalism but the difference between two predominant religions in the sub-continent. Even an illustrious Indian editor, MJ Akbar has written in his book, Under the Shade of Sword, that Islam guarantees the martyr (read suicide bomber) who annihilates the kafir (enemy) paradise.
Suicide bombers are recruited to the Global Jihad Inc. by offering stock options in paradise and unlimited mating opportunities with vestal virgins for sacrificing a ‘miserable’ life on this earth.
To the great credit of the majority of Muslims, they haven’t bought this theory.
But it remains that Jihadis are spurred by religious glory.
To deny that would be being blind to reality.
It is not poverty and poor living conditions that supply suicide bombers for terrorist outfits such as Al Qaeda, Hamas, Hizbollah and Lashkar-e-Toeiba. It is the hatred of the Other.
The poorest of poor in Africa and India do not transform themselves into suicide bombers; they lead their lives in quite but dignified ways.
But cash-rich Palestines (well oiled by a generous Middle East) and Lebanese are ready to book their dates with vestal virgins up there.
It is true that Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) pioneered the terrifying concept of suicide bombers.
LTTE is still fighting their battle with Sri Lanka. But even they have ceased from carrying out such despicable attacks.
Let’s be honest. Let’s look facts in their face.
Let’s separate terrorists from human beings.

Oxygen, rain and development

By John Cheeran
On Saturday's Indian Express, a Soma Wadhwa (Express could not even get her byline right...)has lamented the way Malayalis fritter away opportunities for development.
Badhwa must be one of the finest journalists in New Delhi and is lucky to paste her thoughts on the Op-Ed page of the paper.
I happen to be a Malayali. I read her enlightened effort but I'm not enraged. I send my sympathies to her as well as other journalists and politicians who are obsessed with dragging Kerala to the paradise of development.
For Wadhwa, development is Nokia and BMW. She writes that both these industrial giants intitally scanned Kerala for setting up plants but pitched tent in the neighbouring Tamil Nadu eventually.
She has tried to argue that Kerala is not making use of its literate youth. Is that so?
May be or may not be. But she makes reference to Bengal (which is a bigger geographical reality than Kerala and hence should not have been picked for comparison) and points out that Buddhadeb's state has 259 private projects under implementation while Kerala has only 115 projects in the pipeline.
Thank you for the information. So what's wrong with less number of Industrial ventures?
Some Malayalis might share this concern for development with Badhwa.
But the whole point is just that.
Kerala 's secret is that it can be the No.1 in Human Development Index ranking without opening up for the miasma of huge projects and pollution. I know Malayalis who have various blueprints up their sleeve to convert Kerala into another Mumbai, New Delhi or Bangalore, the melting pots in contemporary India.
And I shudder at their foolishness.
Please spare Malayalis the urban angst and the crime syndicates.
Ten years ago while getting sloshed at the Delhi Press Club, a young bureaucrat, who was on an official visit from Kerala to the capital, told me and another friend that the most precious thing in the state is its oxygen. That friend from Andhra told me that if you want to breathe pure air in India you have to come to Kerala.
No industry but lots of oxygen. Lots of H2O that cleans up not just the landscape but mind as well.
I prefer to go to mountain rather than waiting for mountain to come to me. In the age of globalization why should one insist that the so called development (read job employment opportunities) should come to us (Kerala)?
Malayalis have gone in the past to the ends of the earth in search of job opportunities and prime place being the highly inhospitable New Delhi so that they can preserve the silent valleys of Kerala.
So that every year, like the banished King Mahabali, Malayalis can return to Kerala to have their annual intake of oxygen.
To fellow Malayalis, who thirst after development, let me say this. More industries do not necessarily mean more job opportunities for you. Jobs are meant for those who are skillful and competent. If you are skillful and competent every job is yours provided that you are ready to flee from Kerala.
So that, one day you can come home..
Thank you Wadhwa, but spare us the development...

Friday, August 11, 2006

Cola revolution in Kerala

By John Cheeran
It's been a tradition in Kerala that you have to mix your rum with Coke or Pepsi before gulping it down.
In the good old days it was Thumbs' Up that did the trick. Since Marxists have declared that 'Let there be no Coke and Pepsi' I have no choice but to go back to good old Thumbs Up now.
It is a small mercy that the CPI (M) government has not banned other soft drinks that are manufactured and marketed from the Coke and Pepsi stables.
Marxists are much like Miguel de Cervantes' Don Quixote.
They prefer to tilt at windmills instead of real enemy.
The day's ace Marxist, Comrade V S Achuthanandan, is happy to declare war on Coke and Pepsi, which are but only two prominent symbols of the larger bottled drinks market.What about Thumbs Up, Limca, Fanta and other assorted stuff?
What about the pesticide content in these drinks?
And what about the mineral water market?
I have two suggestions to the Cola Comrades in Kerala.
Allow Coke and Pepsi to be in the market with a statutory warning that says drinking Coke and Pepsi can be injurious to your health, much like the warning on cigarette packets. And those who are in cahoots with multinationals, let them die drinking Coke and Pepsi while we comrades can shout slogans against globalization.
But, I believe, none of the liquor bottles in India carry a statutory warning though drinking booze is quite a dangerous habit than drinking Coke and Pepsi.
I'm afraid that the CPI (M) Politburo will not endorse my statutory warning suggestion. So I'm coming up with another idea that might find many takers in the Politburo, led by Prakash Karat.
Since Marxists are very much into market philosophy with the party running television channels and amusement parks, I suggest them to start a new, people friendly Cola, manufactured, marketed and tested by comrades.
CPI (M) can brand it Marxist-Cola and can claim to world's first people friendly soft drink. Marxist-Cola presents a win-win situation for CPI (M).
It can take the battle into the turf of multinationals and beat them at their own game. And by running its own bottling plants and having an own marketing arm, the CPI (M) can feed its cadre by reserving jobs for them.
But one thing -- Politburo should direct both the VS and Pinarayi Vijayan campfollowers to be united at least in drinking the Marxist-Cola.
Please welcome the Cola Revolution.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Suspense is terrible, but Ganguly hopes it lasts!

By John Cheeran
So they are killing him softly.
National selectors have named Sourav Ganguly among the 30-member probables for the Champions Trophy to be held in India in October.
All of us are now familiar with the final pages of this tear-jerker and the END is there in bold letters. I hope Ganguly is literate and sensible enough to read that and not be fooled by the capers of Kiran More and company.
Ganguly's supporters, however, are ecstatic but I can't hold back my amusement.
As Oscar Wilde said, "the suspense is terrible, but I hope it lasts."
The suspense will definitely last now till September 7, the deadline to prune the squad for Champions Trophy into 15.
Kiran More, chairman of selectors had a convenient argument trotted out for picking Ganguly in Bangalore yesterday. "Every year we discuss various issues before picking a team. Here we just picked the best 30 that we have," said More. "He [Ganguly] is a contracted player and I think he's good enough to be among the probables."
But selectors, if they were really keen to take a peek into the future, have not done the right thing by including Ganguly in the list.
One should fancy youth over experience (or is it the ability to make mistakes), especially in one-day cricket. And Ganguly should not figure in the final 15 for the Champions Trophy.
He does not deserve to be there if cricket is any yardstick for selection. Ganguly had a terrible stint with Northamptonshire where he had a first-class average of 4.80 in six innings.
However, More said that his selection was not just based on his county season but was a combination of the previous domestic season and past performances.
I find it strange that on one hand selectors have brought in youngsters and at the same time accommodated an out of form cricketer who is desperate to revive his financial stature by usurping the India spotlight.
The long list includes three uncapped batsmen, 19-year-old Mumbai player Rohit Sharma, Subramaniam Badrinath and Tejinderpal Singh and now what role Ganguly can play in Indian cricket?
Bringing Ganguly in is a political move to keep both Dalmiya and the Calcutta batsman on back foot. By including Ganguly among the probables, Sharad Pawar camp is apparently giving the signal to Dalmiya lobby that they are the real supporters of Ganguly and inturn trying to make life difficult for the Cricket Association of Bengal President.
Also, this could be the way of coach Greg Chappell and captain Rahul Dravid to tell those skeptics that they are above board when selection of the former Indian captain crops up.
Yes, Chappell and Dravid have not forbidden selectors to ignore Ganguly absolutely. He has been considered, he is good enough to be among the 30 but not good enough to be part of the real Indian dream.
Can there be a more damning indictment of a former Indian captain?
But to tune in to the reaction of Ganguly lobbyists is highly hilarious.Let us hear former East Zone selector Sambaran Banerjee. "I hope he will be included in the 15-member team also - at least going by cricketing ethics and etiquette. I think it is very significant that in the regime of (coach) Greg Chappell, (captain) Rahul Dravid and (selection panel chair) Kiran More, he is back in the team," Banerjee said.
What does Banerjee mean by ethics and etiquette in cricket?
Does it mean that selectors should reserve places for certain individuals in the Indian team, in deference to their past displays?
List of Probables: Rahul Dravid, Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Yuvraj Singh, Mohammad Kaif, Suresh Raina, Irfan Pathan, Mahendra Singh Dhoni (wk), Harbhajan Singh, Ramesh Powar, Dinesh Mongia, Ajit Agarkar, Sreesanth, Munaf Patel, Rudra Pratap Singh, Anil Kumble, Zaheer Khan, VVS Laxman, Venugopal Rao, Robin Uthappa, Gautam Gambhir, Piyush Chawla, S Badrinath, Rohit Sharma, TP Singh, Shib Paul, VRV Singh, Parthiv Patel (wk), Dinesh Karthik (wk) and Sourav Ganguly.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Judgement day for Ganguly

By John Cheeran
Today is the judgement day for Sourav Ganguly.
Be ready to hear Ganguly's announcement of retirement from all forms of cricket, if National selectors do not include him in the 30-strong list of probables. This list of worthies is for the Champions Trophy one-day tournament to be staged in October in India.
If Ganguly is ignored from the list of probables, this is it. The END.
His dream of playing in the 2007 World Cup will remain only a dream.
I do not expect India to win the Champions Trophy but my bet is that Rahul Dravid and company will at least make it to the semifinals. And a semifinal place for India should ensure the survival of the present bunch of one-day players with Suresh Raina and Mohammad Kaif fighting for their World Cup berths in the side.
Ganguly was finished as a Test match player at least three years ago, and he continued to play Tests for India only by abusing his privilege as the captain of the side. Ganguly has struggled for runs in both versions of the game since he has been booted out of the squad by coach Greg Chappell.
He had an abysmal run in Ranji Trophy and his latest adventure in English County cricket for Northamptonshire was nothing but a disaster. Kiran More and his colleagues must be crazy to even think of Ganguly as an India player now.
Ganguly, one should remember that, even betrayed his former mentor Jagmohan Dalmiya to stage a comeback through this list of probables.
Ganguly's spin doctors did not rest idle even after the email fiasco and defeat in the elections to the Cricket Association of Bengal. It came as a shock to me that Reuters ran a highly uncalled for speculative story that quoted an Indian selector not willing to be identified as saying that Ganguly still has good chances of coming back into the India squad.
When did Reuters buy shares in Indian cricket, or for that matter, in Ganguly's food joint in Calcutta?
This is the time to think cricket and delete Ganguly from the system. Not even Dalmiya would shed a tear for him.

Honour the Other

By John Cheeran
Terrorist is the most infamous or most familiar word now.
Terrorist is the name of the new John Updike novel that tackles the modern plague head on. And terrorist is the choicest abuse among footballers as was proved during the World Cup in Germany.
French football icon Zinedine Zidane was abused by Italian Materazzi as "son of a terrorist whore." Just the other day, Dean Jones, the former Aussie cricketer and now a television commentator lost his job for describing South African cricketer Hashim Amla a terrorist.
Both Materazzi's and Jones' remarks attained severity since it was directed at Muslims. Zinedine Zidane and Hashim Amla are Muslims though it is debatable how devout Zidane is.
To be a Muslim and be branded a terrorist for keeping a beard is no joke in this surcharged times. It, really, is bad to be at the receiving end of such prejudice and racial slur.
Though everyone is free to pursue his or her private agenda, it is better to honour your rivals. It is not just sheer coincidence that two great games -- cricket and football --are afflicted by the terrorist sound bytes with in a short span of one month. It is a reminder of the world beyond the boundaries of sport.
Sport often embraces religion for success on the field and that can be construed as the positive influence of faith. But one man's faith does not leave enough space for the other. It leads to intolerance, it leads to strife.
It is high time players and commentators become aware of the susceptibilities of those around us and stick to the rules of the game.

Perils of instant wisdom

By John Cheeran
Instant punditry has its own pitfalls. Ask Dean Jones.
The Australian cricket commentator lost his face, and the job with the Dubai-based sports channel Ten Sports, for describing the South African cricketer Hashim Amla a terrorist.
Television commentary of live sports events can be more dangerous than the game in the middle itself. You have to be on your guard all the time and if you haven't switched off your mike, you should not even think of soliloquies.
I'm sure that TV technology will pick it up without fail and present it to the hungry viewers.
Reports that have come in on Tuesday indicate that Jones intended his remark as a joke. He made the remark in jest to fellow commentators unaware that the feed was live.
It has been pointed out that in Jones' defence that the Aussie did not make the remark on live television, or at least did not think he was doing so.
It is interesting to understand that how crucial a role chance played in all these. Though Jones was commenting for Ten Sports, none of the Ten Sports viewers heard his 'terrorist attack' on Amla. When Jones made the comment, it was an ad-break on Ten Sports, the moment Kumar Sangakkara was dismissed.
Super Sport, who were beaming the match in South Africa, didn't take that break. And it was, Jones saying for anybody who was tuned in: "the terrorist has got another wicket".
May be it could have gone unheard in South Africa too. But the point is that the same medium that lets you become a star, (some of the cricket commentators are really popular in the Indian sub-continent) can bring you down without mercy.
What happened to Jones is not so unique.
In 2004, live football commentary had thrown up a very, very similar situation. Ron Atkinson, a former Aston Villa and England player and who later worked as amanager, had come to be looked upon as a football pundit in England. But Atkinson had a Jones moment that cost him his career as an analyst.
On 21 April 2004, Atkinson had to resign from ITV after he was caught making a racist remark live on air about the black Chelsea FC player Marcel Desailly: believing the microphone to be switched off, he said, "...he [Desailly] is what is known in some schools as a fucking lazy thick nigger".
Although transmission in the UK had finished, his comment was broadcast to various countries in the Middle East. He also left his job as a columnist for The Guardian " by mutual agreement" as a result of the comment.
Jones and Atkinson are former players and won renown as astute observers of their respective games. Both were caught out in similar fashion, for remarks made during what werebelieved to be off the air moments.
Who will be the next in line?

Tuesday, August 08, 2006


By John Cheeran
It is just not cricket.
Tens Sports commentator and former Australian cricketer Dean Jones has given us a peek into how racist some of us can turn into when he described the South African cricketer Hashim Amla, who incidentally happens to be a Muslim, a terrorist.
Jones made the comment when Amla took a catch on the fourth day of the second Test against Sri Lanka in Colombo.
Jones has made a huge mistake to brand a sportsman a terrorist in whatever context he said it so.
Here I should confess that all of us carry within ourselves our prejudices, history of private sentiments but what makes us civilised is our ability to not release everything that agitates our minds.
Ten sports has sacked him as a commentator but the damage has been done.
You cannot deny that majority of the terrorist acts are committed in the name of Islam. But that should not be an excuse to tar anyone with the terrorist brush.
Jones himself has realised his mistake, after losing his job, to consider every bearded man with a Muslim name a terrorist and has said that he would try his best to overcome such prejudices.

In the fitness of things!

By John Cheeran
Whom should one trust?
Physios or coach?
Indian cricket team coach Greg Chappell has said in an interview that Sachin Tendulkar is not 100 per cent fit as a cricketer. Chappell remarked that Tendulkar finds it tough to throw from the deep.
Chappell's comment is interesting. Tendulkar himself is ready to join the battle in the middle and physios have given the green signal to the National team selectors. Now what should one read into Chappell's timely comments?
Meanwhile, Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) secretary Niranjan Shah asserted that Tendulkar is fully fit. "I think Sachin is fully fit to play cricket. Sachin is such a player that if he feels he is not fully fit then he will not take part," Shah said. "The board will go by the report of John Gloster," Shah added.
The situation is really intriguing.
The tri-nation series in Sri Lanka begins only on August 14 and can one presume that India's cricketing icon will graduate to 100 per cent match fitness in the available time.
Sanjay Manjrekar's observations on Tendulkar's future and his game plan attain much importance in the new context. If Tendulkar is ready to play for India without he being 100 per cent fit physically, Manjrekar can claim to be vindicated.
That's exactly what Manjrekar told Sachin to do.
Play as much for India as you can, without waiting for a fit as a fiddle status. Take your chances, and in the process if you fail too often, take it in your stride.
In fact, I think Chappell's no-nonsense comment on Tendulkar's fitness indicates that the Mumbaikar has no choice but to follow Manjrekar's advice of not waiting for 100 per cent match fitness.
Only one thing remains to be seen though.
Whether Tendulkar's new move is based on sheer exigency of getting back into the Indian team and maintaining his brand value or bowing to the ineluctable cricketing logic. We will know soon.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Politics of banning Coca-cola

By John Cheeran
Marxists in Kerala want to ban Coca-cola and other bottled drinks.
The reason for Left Democratic Front' demand for the ban is the poisonous content in Coca-cola and Pepsi as per the findings of a Delhi based agency.
The same agency had come up with similar findings earlier also but then Coca-cola and Pepsi went on to argue that such poisonous stuff are well with in the limits.
Whatever it is, all over India and all over world, a large number of people drink Coca-cola and Pepsi..
And it has been pointed out that Europe has much stricter codes for drinks such as Coca-cola and Pepsi, and some say that Indian bottled drinks will not pass the tests by European agencies.
All that is fine. If people still prefer to drink poisonous Coca-cola and Pepsi it is their choice.
There has not been a single case of poisoned death owing to drinking Coca-cola and Pepsi, anywhere in the world. It is true that lots of Coke bottles have been found with extraneous matters with in the bottle.
Consumer has a right to have unadulterated drink and it is the responsibility of Coke and Pepsi to provide drinks without impure elements. Kerala's government should be able to provoke Coke authorities stricter quality control at their bottling plants.
Instead, to introduce blanket bans on Coke and Pepsi would be a ridiculous move.
If Coke is poisonous what about arrack and liquor?
I love my drink but everyone knows that how dangerous can booze become if it crosses your intake level. Drunken driving is widely recognized as the major killer all over the world, not just in Kerala. The world is yet to report someone having lost his mind just by drinking Coke.
Still world and even Kerala has not banned booze.
It would be foolish to deny man and woman the pleasures of spirit.
So why you want to deny Coke and Pepsi drinkers, who happen to be the younger generation, their pleasure?
Before banning Coke, Marxists should ban cigarettes and booze which are much more damaging to health than Coke and Pepsi.
And on the other side of the coin, all politicians in India have failed in their basic task of giving the masses potable water.
If the agency that tested Coke and Pepsi is to test the water the majority of Indians are drinking in cities and countryside, the result will shock us.
The levels of poison content, and the levels of germs in the water that majority of Indians drink should have finished them off already, going by the academic research.
Comrades, let us order pure drinking water for all of us.
If you can't ensure that, please give us our daily Coke.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Shah Rukh Khan's message to Indian Muslims

By John Cheeran
Bollywood icon Shah Rukh Khan has got it right again.
In an interview to the Times of India, Shah Rukh has dismissed the perception that the middle class Indian Muslim is alienated from society.
SRK, who is married to a Hindu woman, remains the pinup boy for secularism in India.
Let me quote SRK from the Times of India's Mumbai edition. " Every Muslim shouldbe very proud of the fact that we are living in a country that is the most secular. We are living in a country where I don't think we need to feel alienated. I don't think any Muslim people in this country have any reason to be terrorists."
These comments, coming in the wake of Mumbai serial blasts, should shame those wooly secularists and Marxists who are trying desperately to rationalize the terrorist acts by Muslim outfits by making it out to be a battle of the Muslim grievance against the state machinery.
The time has come to discard grievance politics in India.
At least on religious grounds.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Coach or a pimp?

By John Cheeran
After a slew of agency reports that have made use of extracts from the book John Wright's Indian Summers, I'm forced to wonder what exactly was the Kiwi's role with India's national cricket team.
Was he a corrective force within the team or was he pimp to the Indian players?
Pimps facilitate the game to the needy but does not indulge in prostitution. They are silent witnesses to the act, benefits from the act, and they can claim that their role has been limited only and they have committed no sin. They are above the muck.
And whenever they choose to break their alliance with the sluts, they can accuse them, "you did this, shame on you!."Just as John Wright hit out against former national selectors in his book ghosted by two others!
In each case, whether it was the selection issues relating to VVS Laxman and Mohammad Kaif or when England captain Nasser Hussain abused Kaif, Wright chose to keep his silence befitting a pimp.
I'm a baffled by Wright's account of the Multan declaration as put together by AFP.What Wright gives is a match report; not his stand on the issue.
Being a man incapable of decision making Wright says Sachin Tendulkar was right to be peeved with skipper Rahul Dravid's declaration which might have denied the Mumbai batsman another Test double century.
And immediately, Wright adds that "I should have convinced Dravid to declare earlier and he should have grasped that it's one thing to declare when a batsman's 170 or 180, quite another when he's 194. And Tendulkar should have pushed to get there quicker."
It is silly to hear from the Indian coach that he spent a sleepless night after Dravid's declaration. It was Wright's failure as a coach that Tendulkar went ahead and expressed his displeasure in public. As an astute man, Wright should have taken the initiative to assuage Tendulkar's wounded pride.
Coaches are there to guide and motivate players and remind them if need be, whoever it is, that cricket is a team game and what matters is only team's victory.
Wright failed in his basic role as the Indian team coach in Multan. None can deny this.
And it was left to skipper Dravid himself to clear the confusion with a man-to-man chat with the Indian batting supremo.
I find the way Wright defends Tendulkar's right to be peeved highly amusing. Wright says: "He'd been playing for India since he was 16; he'd stood up for his country in bad times and tough conditions, and often been the only man to do so. Having given so much for the team, over such a long period, he probably thought this was one time the team could give something back to him. Even the greatest have their goals and dreams and milestones, and a double century against Pakistan in Pakistan would have been a memory to treasure."
Tendulkar has played international cricket since he was 16, and that alone should have been enough reason that he should have come up with a mature response to the declaration.
It was Wright's responsibility to tell the prima donnas in the Indian team to get their act together. Now it has taken an Aussie to do what a Kiwi failed to do in so abject a manner.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Hamlet and Prince of Calcutta

When sorrows come, they come not single spies, But in battalions. -William Shakespeare
By John Cheeran
I wonder whether the Prince of Calcutta is familiar with Shakespeare's play Hamlet.
But I'm a ready to concede that Sourav Ganguly has a gift for tragedies.
His email classic had a heroic figure, as per the demands of Aristotle, who betrayed his former mentor. Not even the Bard of Avon would have got his timing so perfect to stage the drama that Ganguly and co-conspirators put up in Calcutta last week.
And at the end of it all, Ganguly should take comfort from Shakespeare's lines that sorrows always come in battalions. The latest in the long list of Sourav's sorrows is that BCCI is planning to degrade his contract from class A to class C.
Ganguly lost the captaincy of the Indian team, lost his place in the one-day squad, lost his place in the Test squad, lost Bengal's captaincy, lost his form, had a miserable one-month stint for English county Northamptonshire and lost the battle against his former godfather Jagmohan Dalmiya.
Will there be more sorrows for ?
Who knows?
Yesterday Reuters reported from Mumbai, quoting an un-identified selector, thatGanguly can still stage a comeback into the Indian team. This selector hints that Ganguly has a strong chance to be among the 30-member probables for the Champions Trophy. The list of probables is scheduled to be released on August 9.
Ganguly should read Oscar Wilde. "The suspense is terrible. I hope it will last."
Did Wilde had Ganguly in mind when he came up with these lines?

Victory of Evil over Good!

Note: This report, taken from The Telegraph, Calcutta, is an interesting read.
The Telegraph and its sister organisation Ananda Bazar Patrika (ABP) are known CPI (M) baiters and misses no chance to hit out against West Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee.
A defeat for Buddha's candidate is a victory for The Telegraph and ABP. And during the elections to the Cricket Assocation of Bengal (CAB) The Telegraph faced a dilemma to support which of the protagonists; Jagmohan Dalmiya or Sourav Ganguly. Prasun Mukherjee, the Calcutta City Police Commissioner, was just a dummy.
It was Dalmiya against CPM and Dalmiya against Sourav and Snehasish. Both were the media group's poster boys; only Sourav turning a renege made things delicate for The Telegraph.
But the election has result has made The Telegraph bolder and this report shows how far it can go when it wants.

Calcutta, July 31: (The Telegraph)
The battle over the Cricket Association of Bengal - made synonymous by the chief minister today with a crusade against Jagmohan Dalmiya - is not over with last night's election.
It may only have begun.
"If you want to call it a jihad, go ahead and write it," Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee thundered, shaking in rage at Writers' Buildings when asked if he was starting a crusade against Dalmiya.
Bhattacharjee presided over a landmark agreement with the Indonesian Salim Group earlier in the day for the widest range of projects ever in Bengal, but it did little to brighten up the gloom of his candidate Prasun Mukherjee's loss toDalmiya in the election to the CAB president's post by five votes.
At the signing ceremony, he refused to comment on the election. At Writers', his restraint fell apart. "What is your reaction?" the chief minister was asked. "It is a victory of evil over good, over right-thinking people. This happens at times," he replied, anger seeping out of his skin. His comment was greeted with shock and disbelief in his party and outside. Predecessor Jyoti Basu spoke disapprovingly of Bhattacharjee's comments, saying that the issue should be discussed in the CPM secretariat, representing the highest state-level body.
"I must make it clear that the Left Front had no candidate for the CAB president's post. Mukherjee was the chief minister's candidate and the fact is that he lost," Basu said.
At times, the CAB battle has almost looked like a proxy clash between Basu and Bhattacharjee. Never more so than now, perhaps. The defeat this year has not dissuaded the chief minister from renewing the battle of "good" versus "evil".
Bhattacharjee clearly said that next year, too, Dalmiya would have to face his candidate. Officials said the chief minister called up Mukherjee, the police commissioner, and told him to prepare for next year's battle. Bhattacharjee is believed to have said that with only two months of preparation time before the poll, Mukherjee hadn't done too badly.
Now he has a full year to plan for unseating Dalmiya, the chief minister told him. What the chief minister delivered this afternoon was not a hint but a hammer blow. "It is a fight between justice and injustice. The fight will continue. Young cricketers want Dalmiya to leave the organisation. I will not compromise with wrongdoing. This man has many vested interests outside cricket, he has to go," he said.
Observers were asking what he meant by "wrongdoing", following up with "vested interests outside cricket". His government has been unhappy with Dalmiya's handling of the leather complex, a contract he received in Basu's time. Critics say the state government lost out on the deal.
There are also critics of the chief minister getting involved in an insignificant issue as the CAB election. But he himself doesn't thinks so. "If I did not interfere, it would have been a crime. My interference was necessary to save Eden Gardens and the future of cricket. So I told sports minister Subhas Chakraborty to persuade Dalmiya not to contest the election. Sports-lovers were not appreciating the workings of the CAB. Eden is one of the best stadiums in the world, but it has been turned into an abandoned one in Dalmiya's regime."
Chakraborty is not bythe chief minister's side at this hour. "Many said Dalmiya had an overwhelming influence in CAB. The results show no one can remain unchallenged. It has been a good win, democracy has flourished. I congratulate Dalmiya," he said, adding that people should accept this verdict in a sportsman's spirit. The chief minister perforce has to accept the result but that is about it. "
Now that Dalmiya has won the election, will you compromise with him? "I shall never compromise with such a person and I want him to leave the organisation. Or else, the future of Bengal cricket is doomed," he replied.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

On why silence is golden

By John Cheeran
Though Indian cricket's seat of power is now in Mumbai, and the President of the BCCI is Maratha leader Sharad Pawar, the Indian board itself has ignored the debate between Manjrekar and Tendulkar.
Apparently the board cannot and should not take sides in what should be at its best a healthy argument. But there is an interesting angle to the whole issue out there.
The BCCI functionaries have not taken the side in this discourse but its employees have taken. John Gloster, physio to Indian team has defended Sachin Tendulkar by saying that the batting icon's decisions to stay away from the game as and when he thought it fit is the right step.
Even former physio Andrew Leipus voiced his support for Tendulkar.
But why Kiran More, the chairman of the national selection committee has not supported Tendulkar?
Had More said that Tendulkar is free too pick and choose his matches, citing fitness, it would have taken the sting out of Manjrekar's analysis. Yes, the committee headed by More brought back Tendulkar into the Indian team,for the Colombo trip with open arms. But in the aftermath of the Manjrekar bombshell, More has kept his silence.
Does the silence means More was unhappy with India's cricketing icon on fitness matters?
But may be as a selector, More would have found Tendulkar's decision to take a break from the game to fix his fitness convenient to throw youngsters into the squad and hold his experiments with the youth.
It was a win-win situation for the Indian team management that includes skipper Rahul Dravid and Greg Chappell. Dravid himself has faced the music for daring to be different. Dravid, while leading the side in Pakistan in the absence of a malingering Sourav Ganguly, was excoriated by journalists from Mumbai and Kolkata for daring to declare the Indian innings in Multan for the simple reason that skipper's move denied Tendulkar another double century.
It is quite natural that Dravid has not rushed in to sing Tendulkar's praise now.
It should also be remembered that Tendulkar supported Ganguly when the Snooty Lord was shown the exit from the Indian dressing room.
Silence, after all, is golden when it suits you.!

Quality of Life: The new Bermuda Triangle

By John Cheeran
Why do Indians and other Asians go to the MiddleEast, though dehumanizing conditions await them there?
Well, there are a variety of reasons. Of course, those who are going to the Middle East, whether as manual labourers or still slightly better white-collar workers, are making a career choice. But the problem is that how informed that choice is.
When someone decides to move to the Middle East he is making that choice based on a vision of El Dorado. But that vision, unfortunately, is a hazy one.
You buy into the Dubai or Middle East dream on the assumption that you will have a quality life than what you already have in India. A prospective Gulfwallah has seen those who are coming back to India after a stint in the Middle East flaunting sun glasses, gold jewelry, swanky mobilephones and other assorted consumer goods. All that in return for a life!
The guys and gals who are coming back from the Middle East do have the scent of rich, not the stink of the labour camps.
Even if a prospective Gulfwallah cornered them and asked how good is the scene out there, he will not be given the real picture. That will be an admission of a dirty secret. And you watch in wonder the way these Middle East slaves splurge at home. And you are convinced that you too can have a short cut to success in the Gulf. But the splurge on the part of the Gulfwallah is a way of telling his neighbourhood that his immigrant dream has not turned into a nightmare. The agonies in the desert, the woes of a 10-men-in-a-room accommodation and other indignities at work are pushed aside for a month when they are onvacation.
And lest you forget, the majority of the blue collar workers will be returning home once in three or five years. Meanwhile they haven't seen their family, wives and children. ( I would write about the emotional toll, the Gulf Syndrome, at another time)
Who, then, can blame them for splurging at home, the only time they can breathe again as free spirits and rioting, when the heat gets too hot at labour camps?
The exodus from India to the Middle East boils down to the fact that none has dared to call the Gulf Bluff.
No recruiter will tell you how bad the working conditions are out there in the Middle East. And once you land there it is not at all easy to come back which is true even for professional such as doctors, engineers, journalists, accountants and nurses.
And can you believe that in Middle East countries the employer keeps your passport which is your vital personal document, though the federal law in places such the UAE tells them not to do so?
You may ask what's the big deal in employer keeping your passport. It's a big deal indeed. Your mobility is restricted, and you can leave the country only at the fancy of your employer. It is a handcuff by all means and gross violation of human rights. It is a way of telling you can't protest about anything out there.
But I was surprised to learn that many of the white collar professionals, when they made their decision to go to the Middle East, did not know of this dirty practice by the employers. Empolyers and recruiters do not mention this during the negotiations because it is against the law in their own country and against the human rights prevalent elsewhere in the world.
Then there is the pittance which majority of the immigrant workers get. As I had wrote in Quality of Life, even this pittance (Dh 400 or Indian Rs 4800) gets withheld for months. The working conditions are oppressive especially in the construction sector. And have you calculated the cost of maintaining a robot as a bricklayer or crane operator?
Asians are much, much cheaper than robots and easily programmed towork, with fear acting as the button to cow them down.
In India they were poor, but there were free.
In the Middle east they are still poor, but not free.
In India they had their huts, they had their women, they had their hooch.
He had a slice of life.
You would ask why can't they come back quickly if they don't like it hot there?
There are practical problems. First, his employer would not give him passport so he can't leave the country. And consider this reality. An average immigrant would have sold whatever piece of land he had, would have pawned or sold his wife's jewelry and borrowed from local loan shark to raise roughly Rs 150,000 for a visa from the agent. Add to this the cost of a flight ticket.
An immediate return to home without paying his lenders is ruled out; so he carries on, cursing his ill-informed choice. By the time he realises that The Land of Gold was just a mirage, it is too late. This is the reality for majority of the immigrants.
Many of them never come back to India; they overstay their visas; they lose their jobs, they have no money to buy a ticket to come home, and some of them can't afford to come back penniless.
The humiliation that awaits them in India is too hard to take on. They disappear from our radar. I have heard countless stories about Indians go missing in the Middle East never to be seen, never to be heard again.
In fact, I'm told, down south, CPI (M)'s own television channel runs a weekly programme focusing only on the missing people in the Middle East.
Aren't these people humans? Wouldn't you care if your poodle went missing from your own backyard?
Is the Middle East the new Bermuda Triangle?
Why don't we cry over these men and women rather than protesting over the abused rights of those who are in Guantanamo Bay?

K.N. Prabhu: An innings to cherish

By John Cheeran
I never met K. N. Prabhu, the prince among Indian cricket writers. And I will never meet him now.
Prabhu died in Mumbai on Sunday morning. He was 83.
Though I did not meet him, Prabhu was no stranger to me as well as thousands of other cricket lovers as he extensively wrote for The Times of India in an age where the print media remained the sole voice of cricket. My generation, however, missed the best of Prabhu's colorful and vivid reportage that began in the early 50s.
Prabhu was feted for his turn of phrase and style, as Raju Bharathan, that other stylist, pointed out in an obituary yesterday.
It was a few gentlemen such as Prabhu who brought dignity to sports journalism in India. Indian cricket captains and players sought after Prabhu to convey their points of view to the nation through the Times of India. Prabhu never stooped to conquer scoops. Even after a long innings as Sports Editor of the Times of India, Prabhu did not abandon his first love. He used to write on cricket for Mid-Day.
Prabhu, I should add, was a bit lucky.
His job was made easier by the simple fact that there was little competition for him from other media outlets in the country. And quite often his version of the events was the only one available for the reader.
There were no television channels who now compete to build any average cricketer into a rock star. But that does not take the sheen from his splendid work.
Prabhu's reportage, I'm sure, will survive the seasons to come. Thank you, master.
John Cheeran at Blogged