Saturday, December 06, 2008

Why I'd rather die than visit Dubai

By Sathnam Sanghera, The Times, London

There are certain places that I would like to visit before I die, Tokyo, Mumbai and Havana among them. But, like grilled cheese sandwiches, I don't travel very well and there are many more places that I would rather die than visit. And, for many years, the city that has topped this list has been Dubai.

I know it is popular - it has set itself the target of achieving 15 million tourists by 2015. But whenever residents and tourists start banging on about the great shopping it offers, I can't help thinking that you can also shop very well in Birmingham; when they rave about the climate, I can't help thinking that 48C is too hot; and when they gush about all the plush restaurants to dine out at, I can't help thinking that London has quite a few of those, too.

Given that its one remaining attraction - beach life - holds little appeal to a man who can't swim and doesn't need to work on his tan, I would rather go on a cycling tour of Sunderland than spend a week in Dubai. And I was saying just that to a friend last week after a conversation about the Gulf city's property boom - which has fuelled double-digit growth for five years, but is now showing signs of turning to bust - when I was accused, not for the first time, of ignorance and prejudice.

So last week I spent an entire day reading newspaper articles and travel guides about Dubai and am now much better informed. And whereas before I would have suggested that people who went there on holiday had absolutely no imagination, and Britons who emigrated there did so because they had essentially failed in their home country, I would now say that British tourists and emigrants to Dubai also:

1. Have no taste. The briefest of flicks through any tourist guide to the city reveals that the £1.5billion Atlantis, The Palm resort, the launch of which was recently marked with a £13 million party, and the owners of which reportedly hauled 24 live dolphins 30 hours by air from the Solomon Islands to entertain guests in the new water park (despite protestations from environmental groups), is actually an establishment of considerable sobriety and dignity compared with many other attractions in the city. These include: Dubailand, a £13 billion theme park and entertainment complex three times the size of Manhattan; “The Mall of Emirates”, which, despite the desert climate, has a ski slope attached to it, is kept chilled to minus 2C at night and minus 8C when the snow is being manufactured; and the QE2, which is to be permanently moored on Palm Island to serve as an hotel and events centre, having gone through the kind of makeover that MTV's Pimp My Ride normally reserves for VW Golfs. Frankly, Dubai makes Blackpool look classy.

2. Are deeply uncultured. It seems to me that the purpose of the city's many shopping malls, resorts and skyscrapers is to distract visitors from the fact that there is actually little to do or see there. The desert, most travel writers concede, is featureless, the Gulf waters simply do not compare with the Mediterranean or the Red Sea, and the city lacks the historical intrigue of such destinations as Egypt, Italy and Greece. Essentially it is Las Vegas without the sex and the gambling, which is Las Vegas without a point.

3. Are unethical. Fans of Dubai often witter on about the lack of crime and the affordable luxury but this comes at a heavy price. The economy - which may turn out to have been literally and metaphorically built on sand - has been propped up by imported labourers who work six or six and a half days a week on 12-hour shifts, toiling in the desert sun for a daily wage that often amounts to no more than the cost of a pint of beer. The city also has no elections and no political parties. And in the UAE it is quite acceptable for employers to specify the preferred nationality or gender of applicants in job advertisements and for Europeans to be paid more than Filipinos or Indians who are doing the same work. All this should leave the piña coladas sipped by the tourists on the balconies of seven-star luxury hotels with a rather bitter aftertaste.

4. Are deluding themselves about the city's tolerance. Dubai is often held up as an example of how modern it is possible for Islamic society to be. But case history suggests that it has some way to go before it is challenging Amsterdam for liberalness. The British couple recently convicted of having sex on a beach in Dubai may have been freed and deported to the UK after their three-month prison sentence was suspended, but others haven't been so lucky. According to the Lonely Planet guide to the city, one British tourist was arrested at Dubai airport and sentenced to four years in prison after 0.03g of cannabis - an amount “smaller than a grain of sugar and invisible to the human eye” - was found on the stub of a cigarette stuck to the sole of his shoe. Meanwhile, a Swiss man was reportedly imprisoned after customs officers found three poppy seeds on his clothes (they had fallen off a bread roll he had eaten at Heathrow), and a British woman was held in custody for two months before customs officers conceded that the codeine that she was using for her back problems had been prescribed by a doctor.

Indeed, I couldn't help noticing in last week's coverage of the grand opening of the hideous Atlantis resort - which is built on a man-made island - that the singer Lily Allen, the model Agyness Deyn and her boyfriend, Albert Hammond Jr, were all subjected to a strip search on the way there. Deyn remarked afterwards, “It was really traumatic”, adding: “It wasn't the best experience in the world, but it is their culture and you just have to respect it.”

She's right - you have to respect it. If you go. But you don't have to go.

Friday, October 24, 2008

If you are like I......

Yanks Thump Sox
Prime rate to remain stable, Bernanke says

By Gene Weingarten
Sunday, June 22, 2008; Page W32
If you are like I, you are pretty sick of reading articles about how the financially-troubled newspaper industry is making desperation budget cutting moves: Downsizing its products, laying off staff, buying prostitutes for advertisers, and so forth. But believe me, you'd be even sicker of it if you were INSIDE a typical American newsroom these days, where it's sometimes hard to hear over the 200 decibel background drone of human whining.
One frequent newsroom complaint is that they are cutting back drastically in the use of copyeditors. It's true, but I for one am not complaining. I say good riddance.
The era of the copy editor is gone. Copyeditors were once an important part of the journalism process, back when journalists weren't as educated as they are now. Back then, your typical reporter was named 'Scoop" and he was a semi-literate cigar-smoking, fannie-pinching drunk with bad teeth in a wrinkled suit and a card that said PRESS stuck in the hat-band of his fedora, and they'd generate their stories by bribing sources, pistol-whipping people into talking, eavesdropping from inside closets, etc. A reporter was hired for cheek and muscle, not their writing skill, so you needed an extra layer of editing.
Copy editors were fine-tuners, fixing basic but important things that a first line of editing might'nt catch: Typos, errors in facts, spelling, syntax, punctuation, clarity, word usage, style, parallelism, and not letting sentences run on. They would also bear principle responsibility for headlines, photo captions, story jump lines, as well as catching the occasional, inadvertent cultural insensitivity. Because the job requires patience, maturity, intelligence, attention to detail, and an extremely sedentary workday, fat old Jewish ladies have often made good copyeditors.

But nowadays, things have changed. "Scoop" is gone. Young reporters are all named "P. Laurence Butterfield Jr." and they arrive at their first newspaper job fresh-faced and competent, straight from New Haven, Conn., with their high-faluting Princeton educations. They don't need copyeditors.
This is a true fact: I'm writing this column the very week after dozens of copy editors left my newspaper through an early retirement buyout, and I have noticed no difference at all whatsoever in the quality, accuracy
or readability of the product.
The inessentialness of copy editors is underscored by the advent of sophisticated spellchecking systems which have introduced a hole new level of error-free proofreading. No longer can we say that the editor's penis mightier than the sword. The sword's main foe is a computer now, and the computer is up to to the task.
But nowadays, things have changed. "Scoop" is gone. Young reporters are all named "P. Laurence Butterfield Jr." and they arrive at their first newspaper jobs fresh-faced and competent, straight from New Haven, Conn., with their high-faluting Princeton educations. They don't need copyeditors.
Truth to tell, I feel badly for all copy editors whom, I'm afraid, will suddenly find themselves out of a job. Time has past them by, however, efeated the Red Sox 6-5 in extra innings and it doesn't make sense for us to weep for copyeditors anymore than it makes sense for us to lament the replacement of bank tellers with automated ATM machines.
So to all my former copyediting colleagues, I wish them a soft landing. Finally, I'd like to give particular shoutouts to my friends Pat Meyers and Bill O'Brien, two longtime copyeditors for the Washington Post who took the early retirement: We'll miss ya, guys, even if we didn't need you all that muck.
How good a copy editor would you be? See how many of the 57 errors of fact, grammar, syntax and style in this column you can catch, and then read the corrections below.
Gene Weingarten can be reached at


Here are the errors in fact, grammar, syntax and style that a good copy editor would have caught.
Paragraph One: Six errors.
Opening line should begin "if you are like me," not "like I."
No hyphen in "financially troubled."
"Downsizing" should be lower case.
"Budget-cutting" should have a hyphen.
Syntax requires moving "desperation" after "budget-cutting."
"200-decibel" should have a hyphen.
Paragraph Two: Four errors.
"They" has no antecedent; should read "publishers."
"Copy editors" is two words.
The phrase "I, for one," needs two added commas.
Paragraph Three: Eleven errors.
"Copy editors" should be two words.
"Scoop" has an incorrect open quotation mark.
Comma needed after Scoop.
"Semiliterate" has no hyphen.
Comma needed after "semiliterate."
Should be "and wearing a wrinkled suit" to correct impression that it's his teeth in the suit.
It's "fanny," not "fannie."
"Hatband" has no hyphen.
HE would generate HIS stories, not "they" and "their."
"His" writing skills, not "their."
Paragraph Four: Six errors
"Mightn't," not "might'nt."
"Typos" should be lowercase.
"And not letting sentences run on" is bad parallelism."
"Principal," not "principle."
"Copy editors," not "copyeditors."
Grotesque cultural insensitivity in the line about Jewish women.
Paragraph Five: Four errors.
A comma is needed after "Jr."
It's "highfalutin," not high faluting.
Yale is in New Haven, not Princeton.
Copy editors is two words.
Paragraph Six: Two errors
"True fact" is redundant.
"At all whatsoever" is redundant.
"Continued" line is an error: One error.
Paragraph Seven: Six errors.
"Inessentialness" is not a word.
"Spell-checking" is hyphenated.
"That" have introduced, not "which."
"Whole," not "hole."
"Pen is" not "penis."
There is an extra "to" in the last sentence.
Paragraph Eight: One error.
The entire paragraph is repeated from above. Since it will not be individually copyedited again, this counts as one error only.
Paragraph Nine: Nine errors.
"Badly" should be "bad."
"Who," not "whom."
"Jobs," not "job."
"Passed," not "past."
There is errant baseball type included.
"Copy editors" are two words.
"Any more" should be two words.
"Automated" and "machines" are both redundancies.
Paragraph Ten: One error.
It is upside-down.
Paragraph Eleven: Eight errors.
"Copy editing" is two words.
Wish "you" a soft landing, not "them."
"Shout-outs" has a hyphen.
"Myers," not "Meyers."
"O'Brian," not "O'Brien."
"Copy editors" is two words.
"The" Washington Post, not "the."
"Much," not "muck."
The Headline: One error.
So, we get the 59 errors enumerated above, plus one more, to total 60: The final error is that we said there were only 57 errors.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Indian Vice President Ansari Asks Muslims to join India's Growth Story

Aligarh, October 18: : Asking Muslims to ‘seek equity, not concessions’ from government, Vice-President Hamid Ansari on Saturday said the community should introspect as a failure to participate in India's ‘growth story’ will lead to its marginalisation.

Addressing a gathering of over 500 Aligarh Muslim University alumni from as many as 20 countries, Ansari said the Muslim community should adapt to changing requirements of time and pointed out the need to draw every segment including women into the sphere of education.

This, he said, was the only way out if the Muslim community is to partake in India's historic growth story.

"We as a community have failed to appreciate the need for education for all sections. Our illiteracy levels continue to remain above the national level and we continue to lag behind in ensuring education at the primary level and for women," the Vice-President said.

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Rejecting the growing clamour for 'quotas' in educational institutions and jobs, Ansari said the community should ‘seek equity not concessions’ as ‘seeking specific dispensation will not take us too far’.

"Let us candidly admit that we have failed to conceptualise the demands of a changing environment and failed to understand that education cannot be sectional," Ansari told the first 'World Summit of AMU Alumni'.

He said Muslims should learn to emulate other communities in adapting to changing requirements of time and utilising the opportunities and sops provided by government.

"Our failure to participate in India's growth story will lead us to marginalisation," a candid Ansari, who is himself an alumnus of AMU and also a former Vice-Chancellor, warned.

Coinciding with the birth anniversary of its founder Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, the two-day meet deliberated on the need to streamline resources for making the university a world class institution in the next 20 years.

Ansari, who passed out from the varsity in 1959, reminded the delegates of the founder's purpose for establishing the over 100-year-old institution in Aligarh, asking them to revert back to the message of Syed Ahmad.

"This is time to do cost accountancy and time to introspect. The institution was instituted in 1875 in response to a specific need to impart modern education to Muslims and inculcate in them a spirit of rational thinking," the ex-diplomat said.

"We need to revert to the message of Syed Ahmed Khan," he said, pointing to the need of philanthropic efforts to draw the marginalised sections towards education and channelise incomes for setting up more institutions.

Monday, October 13, 2008

The cookie is crumbling for Kumble

By John Cheeran
So relief all around in the Indian dressing room as Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman ensured that the first Test ended in draw.
But the all round patchy show, especially from batsmen, does not give Indian cricket much hope.
The inconsistent show from stalwarts such as Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman should make Chairman Krishnamachari Srikkanth and his co-selectors think hard. And as for Sourav Ganguly (47 and 26), the denouement has been already spelt out.
Of course as skipper, Anil Kumble must be a worried man by the ineffectual show of his batsmen. But honestly, can Kumble now command a place in the side purely on his wicket-taking abilities?
This is not the first time Kumble has gone wicket-less in a Test, but at this juncture, India’s senior pro, should justify his presence being useful to the side.
How much more should we invest in this fading stock? It is true that Kumble was hampered by injury, and that was evident from the low key role, he played in Australia’s second innings, coming in as the fifth bowler and restricting himself to eight overs. This is a long and hard series against cricket world’s fiercest rivals; and captain should lead by example to inspire his teammates.
If Ganguly could be given VRS by the Board of Control fro Cricket in India, why not others?
But changing your captain during the middle of a home series, for reasons other than injury, would be a hard blow for Indian cricket to take in. Mohali, Delhi and Nagpur are waiting and this slow burn should not be allowed to continue any longer.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Ganguly and Gun!

From The Australian

SOURAV Ganguly has laid bare the staggeringly selfish nature of Indian cricket by launching a tirade against his team-mates.
Already at the centre of a circus after claiming he will retire at the end of this four-Test series against Australia, the former captain claimed some Indian players changed their hairstyle more often than they made runs.
"I have played 400 matches for India (110 Tests and 311 one-day games). I have played badly in only one series, yet every Tom, Dick and Harry is playing in the team," Ganguly told a local Bengali newspaper.
"There are players who haven't scored in the last three series for India, even for the last one year. There are some who have changed their hairstyle more than they have scored for India."
Ganguly, 36, did not mention his fielding, which was typically dreadful during the second day of the first Test here yesterday.
The tensions his criticisms will create can only be magnified should India do badly in this Test and series, given the pressure on the senior players following a surprise 2-1 Test series loss to Sri Lanka in August.
Captain Anil Kumble, who turns 38 this month, will certainly be feeling it after going to lunch yesterday with figures of 0-103. He has now conceded 100 runs in an innings 56 times, more than any other bowler in Test history.
Ganguly claimed he wanted to continue playing next year.
"Maybe seven more Tests. For that I was not prepared to take any more humiliation," he said.
"I was tired of being humiliated again and again. I don't want to play cricket at the mercy of others."
Ganguly's humiliation stems from being left out of last month's Rest of India side in the Irani Trophy match against reigning Ranji Trophy title-holder Delhi, which was essentially a warm-up match for this Test series.
A fading Ganguly was first dropped by Greg Chappell early in 2006 when the Australian was coach and wanted to renew an ageing team.
Ganguly made a strong return late that year and had played well since, but two of his last three series have been poor, averaging 29 in Australia and, most recently, 16 in Sri Lanka.
"When Greg dropped me, TP Singh (who is now playing in the rebel Indian Cricket League) was my replacement. Where is he now?" Ganguly said.
Ganguly claimed being dropped for the Irani Trophy was worse than being dropped by Chappell.
"I couldn't imagine being dropped for that. That's when I said, 'not again'," he said.
It is only a new selection committee, under former Test batsman Kris Srikkanth, which has revived Ganguly's career.
"I am bound to feel bad. I had to fight with my heart," Ganguly said. "If there is a gun to your head all the time, how long can you bear this?
"I thought a lot before reaching this decision. I have also thought about my plans for the next one year.
"If this (selection) committee had come three years earlier, the situation would have been slightly better for me."

India's brittle batting gives Ponting room for hope

So my fears came true but when Harbhajan Singh did his bhangra at the batting crease, things perked up a little for a beleaguered India.
India lost wickets while looking for quick runs, and except for that bright opening from Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir, the home side was without a master builder.
So no wonder then that the cavalier Singh emerged as the king, not with the ball, but with the bat. The Fab Five must be chastened by the fact that Harbhajan emerged as the top scorer for India with 54. Only a patient half-century from Rahul Dravid came closer at 51. Yes, Sourav Ganguly hung in there, again proving a point that he is still better than many in Indian cricket. It was an innings under pressure again, but when you consider the struggles of Sachin Tendulkar (13) VVS Laxman (0) and MS Dhoni (9) at the crease, you can make your own judgments about the state of Indian batting.
So where is this Test heading?
Australia definitely enjoyed the upper hand when they saw the back of Ganguly at 232/7, but Indian tail or rather Harbhajan has spoiled Ricky Ponting’s push for victory. India is still behind Australia by 117 runs. If Indian spinners fail to tease and torment Aussies in their second innings, the last day of the match could see India caught between victory and defeat while chasing an almost 400 target.
Thus it is all about managing the contradictions. You got to attack but only knowing well where your weaknesses are.
Anil Kumble, going wicket-less in the first innings, has a cross to bear tomorrow both at the batting and bowling creases.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Watchout for the cracks in the wall, cracks in the pitch

By John Cheeran
The intent mattered.
India has taken up the Aussie gauntlet and is now looking to overcome Australian first innings total in the fastest way possible. They should score quickly, and for now, Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir, have done just that.
More than the mere run rate, after all it is just 18 overs, India’s positive attitude signals that they are here to win the Test and seize the initiative in the series.
In the remaining three days, Anil Kumble has a tough task to accomplish. India is left with not many options, but to bat through day three and day four and let the pitch take care of Ponting and mates on the final day. But cruising at a fast mode would naturally mean that at some stage Indian innings would crack under the contradictions of getting quick runs and keeping wickets intact. That’s the challenge for the Indian batting in this Test.
There is nothing surprising the way Sehwag and Gambhir have begun the Indian riposte. Both are aggressive batsmen by nature.
The wicket still plays true and hard. And down the order you could expect some suicidal brilliance from Sourav Ganguly especially after his “Every Tom Dick and Harry” interview to AajKal on the eve of the match.
It was no wonder that Ganguly, again, cut a lonely figure on the field. He was the last one to join the huddle when a wicket fell; he was the last one to troop out when the team took the field.
But given Ganguly’s Fuck You All attitude, it might trigger another blazing innings from the man, though his form has not been the best in the recent past.
Whatever, expect quite a few twists and turns in the next three days.

Aussies Hussey, Hussey

By John Cheeran
By posting 430 in the first innings, Australia has achieved their immediate objective. Of course, skipper Ricky Ponting would have liked to see another 70 runs on board to his side’s first innings total, but by giving the hosts only less than a session on the second day to bat, he should be extremely happy. Now, Australia has enjoyed batting without hurry during the major part of the first two days, but India must bat with a sense of urgency to have a real chance to win this Test, where spinners will have an increasingly important role to play as the days go by.
Australia did not set out to dominate Indian bowling on the second day too. They were, in fact, playing it neat and straight. Michael Hussey was willing to be the anchor instead of the aggressor, and he held the latter half of Aussie innings with aplomb and authority. Despite losing Shane Waston early in the day, Hussey held on and gathered runs with the clean conscience of a solitary reaper. May be Hussey could have taken a little more freedom against Kumble and Harbhajan. With pitch playing true and fast, Indian spinners were wheeling away, more in hope than with a real sense of wickedness.
The kind of percentage cricket that Australians played during the first two days should be a pointer for Indian batsmen. Patience pays off eventually. Hussey showed everyone how much he prizes his wicket and the way he anchored the second half of the Aussie innings should be a lesson, in case any aspiring cricketers were watching at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium.
In fact, most were surprised, in the end, the sudden fall of wickets that sealed the Australian innings at 430. Zaheer Khan, ignored throughout the day by skipper Kumble after the pacer failed to control his line and length, finally redeemed himself by capturing three wickets in the space of seven balls sent down by the bowler.
Zaheer bowled Hussey (146) to end a huge innings and complete an enticing haul of five wickets, but if one should pick an Indian bowler for his qualitative contribution, I would vote for Ishant Sharma. For much of the second day, it was Ishant who ran in with a sense of purpose, and put a few breaks, when Aussies were walking on.

123...for Ponting and Australia in Bangalore

By John Cheeran
Australia has put aside bravado for the time being. Skipper Ricky Ponting first called 123 at the toss on Thursday at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore and a few minutes later walked in to compile a polished 123 to thwart India’s designs of winning the first Test of the three Test Border-Gavaskar series.
On Thursday, everyone was disappointed at the guarded approach of Australians. 256 for four in a day is, not what you have come to expect from the Aussies. But Greg Chappell or Nielsen, Ponting has understood the meaning of playing well in the early hours of a series and the importance of playing the first innings big and proper, especially after winning the toss.
It is true that India’s aging spinners, skipper Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh, did not have the best conditions to confound the Aussie batsmen. It would be largely incredulous to expect these two lead the likes of Ponting and Simon Katich astray.
You cannot deny that India had begun well in the series when Zaheer Khan sent back opener Matthew Hayden without a run on the board. And what a deceiving moment that turned out to be. Only in the final few minutes of the day India could salvage some pride by taking the wickets of centurion Ponting and Michael Clarke.
But by then Australia had achieved their basic objective. They had some runs, and denied the first use of batting crease to hosts, and there by, managed to pile the pressure on the home side.
Aussies could not go wrong much from this stage, unless India produce some very, very special efforts in the remains of the Test.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Can newspapers survive?

By Michael Gawenda
There is incessant chatter about the need for a new model for newspapers in the digital age, which might be true, but in the meantime, profitable newspapers are being butchered. Talk of a new model is nothing but empty words.
The editorial cuts announced by Fairfax, publisher of the Herald, in response to a fall in advertising revenue, were chilling. The economic slowdown is the immediate cause, but this was coming for at least a decade. It is a failure of imagination and commitment, a result of a lack of experience and knowledge and love of newspapers. I am not opposed to cuts in editorial staff as a matter of principle. Not every job has to be preserved and protected. I am not saying the Herald and The Age cannot be great newspapers with fewer journalists. They can. And they have to change.
But for real change, courage is needed, as are vision and risk-taking and, above all, a commitment to newspapers and journalism that, frankly, I do not see at the moment.
Young people embarking on a career in journalism should not despair. Things change, often in unexpected and unforeseeable ways. Newspapers can do some things no other medium can match - not television, not radio, not the internet.
One of the great mistakes newspapers have made in recent years is trying to address their weaknesses rather than build on their strengths. So we have shorter stories, bigger headlines, more graphics, more bells and whistles, more tricked-up, overblown pages, more pages meant to look visually rich but which, in the main, look desperate and garish.
This attempt to ape the internet in print is being driven by middle-aged people who, in truth, have no real feel for the net and therefore no real understanding of its strengths and weaknesses. The next generation of journalists, who have grown up in the digital age, are much more likely to understand what newspapers can offer that digitally delivered journalism cannot.
Only newspapers can build a community of readers. What builds that community? Well, for a start, a shared sense of what the newspaper is about, what it considers important, interesting, entertaining and thought-provoking. A shared sense of the city, the country, even the world. That's about telling stories - stories from our courts and police force and local councils and businesses and governments and hospitals. No web news site will ever tell such stories.
Is this investigative journalism? Of course it is. How many newspaper articles do you consider compelling and revelatory, articles that only a reporter, going out there and doing the reporting work, could have brought you? Newspapers need to be in the business of news, but they need to report news that only a newspaper can do well.
The rest, reports of news conferences, PR-driven events, announcements - all of that can go online. Newspapers need to get smaller, clearer in their focus.
Most of the lifestyle sections should migrate to online. That doesn't mean newspapers should stop writing about food, for instance, but think, when was the last time you read a truly well-reported story about food? The reviews and the listings - and entertainment and television guides - are much better done online.
Unlike some people, I believe the future for newspapers is not in commentary and analysis. The internet is awash with commentary. You can read the columnists on every major - and minor - paper in Australia and around the world on the net, and a number of sites aggregate this stuff.
Newspapers should not abandon commentary and analysis, but it should really be just another form of reporting - tell me something I have not thought about. That can be done only by people who know more about a given subject than I know. Too many columnists actually know less than their readers.
Newspapers need to build on their strengths: Forget big headlines and huge and often meaningless graphics. Instead, arresting photography, great illustrations and wonderful editorial cartoons. And stories, well-written and compelling stories, well-edited and with smart and entertaining headlines, if possible, without lousy puns.
Will this sort of newspaper, half the size of most of the papers we produce today, succeed?
Can newspapers have smaller circulations and fewer readers, a premium cover price, no lifestyle sections, no special circulation deals - which basically involve giving the paper away - and be profitable? I think so.
What size staff is required to produce such a newspaper? I suspect a smaller staff than those producing today's papers. I am sure the newspaper and online sites of the newspaper need to be brought together because without that sort of integration, neither will succeed.
Do newspapers have a future? And how long is that future? Well, I ask you to imagine Melbourne without The Age and the Herald Sun or Sydney without the Herald and The Daily Telegraph. Imagine Australia without The Australian.
If you can imagine such a future, in my view, that's in part because of our failure to produce newspapers that attract the sort of fierce and lifelong loyalty they once attracted.
Michael Gawenda is a former editor-in-chief of The Age. This is an extract from his A.N. Smith Lecture in Journalism to be delivered tonight in Melbourne.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Playing in India, not playing for India, matters for Ganguly

By John Cheeran
Sourav Ganguly is out of the Rest of India squad, and vast sections of India are discussing the injustice done against the Bengali icon and one of India’s prominent batsmen since 1996.
Australians are coming.
So an omission from the Rest of India squad could be interpreted as an end of the road signal. The omission would not have mattered much if not for Ganguly’s exasperating form during the Sri Lankan Test tour. Always considered as a good one-day batsman, Ganguly was left out of the Indian one-day team that defeated Sri Lanka immediately after the follies of Tests. That should have rung alarm bells for worshippers of Ganguly.
Any discussion about Ganguly will not be complete without pointing towards former Indian captain Rahul Dravid.
The selection committee, led by former Test cricketer Dilip Vengsarkar, had cast aside Dravid long ago from the one-day excursions.
Dravid, the quintessential Test batsman, survives the axe mainly thanks to a few gritty innings that he played on the Sri Lankan tour. Willingness to fight it out in the middle was there in quite contrast to the belligerent escapism that Ganguly brought to the batting crease. Now it may be ironic that Ganguly has been told to pack his bags after his most successful season as a Test batsman (does anyone remember the double century he scored against an harried Pakistan) in international cricket.
Reports say that coach Gary Kirsten and Test team skipper Anil Kumble did not bat for Ganguly when selectors sat together to finalise the squad.
How they could have?
Dravid, despite his low key performance in recent times, has been performing a crucial role for India batting at the critical slot of No.3. In terms of sheer utility value Ganguly is no match for Dravid. And Ganguly never cared for his fielding.
Ganguly knows by experience that silence is golden.
Why react when others are dusting up his obituary.
What if the Rest of India falters against the Australian attack? That will open the doors of Indian team to him again. Just sit at the boundary.
And even of you are not playing for India does it matter any more in the age of Indian Premier League?
Playing in India is what matters now you have Kolkata Knight Riders to dream of. IPL must be figuring prominently in Ganguly’s thoughts and that must be delaying an official declaration of the end.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Jeet Thayil / Malayalam's Ghazal

Editor's note: Jeet Thayil was born in Kerala, India, and educated in Hong Kong, New York and Bombay. His poetry collections include Gemini 2 and, English and Apocalypso. My most remembered and favourite lines of Jeet are below.
"where they (my lips) touched your skin, there would be constellations in your face, and world upon world in your absent body."

Malayalam’s Ghazal
Listen! Someone’s saying a prayer in Malayalam.
He says there’s no word for ‘despair’ in Malayalam.

Sometimes at daybreak you sing a Gujarati garba.
At night you open your hair in Malayalam.

To understand symmetry, understand Kerala.
The longest palindrome is there, in Malayalam.

When you’ve been too long in the rooms of English,
Open your windows to the fresh air of Malayalam.

Visitors are welcome in The School of Lost Tongues.
Someone’s endowed a high chair in Malayalam.

I greet you my ancestors, O scholars and linguists.
My father who recites Baudelaire in Malayalam.

Jeet, such drama with the scraps you know.
Write a couplet, if you dare, in Malayalam.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Satyajit Ray vs Raj Kapoor

Bollywood: A History mentions the spat between Satyajit Ray and Raj Kapoor.

Film director Shyam Benegal tells author Mihir Bose

“The Bombay film industry always thought Ray (Satyajit) was not doing right by India. Raj Kapoor and he had a big spat once. Raj Kapoor’s film Jagte Raho, directed by Shambu Mitra, a famous Bengali theatre director who had the same stature as Ray in cinema. Shambu made the film and it won Raj Kapoor an ward in the 1964 Karlovy Vary film festival, the same year that Aparajito won the Golden Lion in Venice. They met up at some meeting where both were being felicitated.

So Ray said it was a great recognition for Bengali cinema.

Raj Kapoor said, “ Why Bengali, are you not an Indian? Why do you say you are a Bengali film maker?

Ray said, “I am a Bengali film maker.

Raj Kapoor said, “ Why can’t you say you are an Indian film maker? For god’s sake.”

India outclasses Sri Lanka as Dhoni leads the side to a rare series win

By John Cheeran
Mahendra Singh Dhoni has given Indian cricket what is needed at this juncture – a morale boosting series win.
Yes, the jagged edges in our cricket are still the same.
But after getting scared out of their wits against rookie but unconventional spinner Ajantha Mendis, and losing the Test series, this one-day series win, India’s first in Sri Lanka, should not be belittled.
As it has been observed earlier, this bunch of players will play an increasingly significant role in Indian cricket and that was evident on Wednesday as first Virat Kohli, and then Suresh Raina and captain Dhoni helped India to a decent total. The only disappointment was Yuvraj Singh. What Yuvraj needs is a dose of self-confidence, and in that, only he can help himself.
Again Indian bowlers upset the rhythm of Sri Lankan batting by striking early and thereafter taking wickets regularly.
Sanath Jayasuriya threatened to take the game away from India, but he could not sustain his aggression. With Kumar Sangakkara woefully out of form a big effort had to come from skipper Mahela Jayawardene. Indian bowlers, especially, Harbhajan Singh ensured that no batting revival took place.
It may be a bit hurting, but fact of the matter is that Sri Lanka, the World Cup runner up, has played far better cricket than India in the recent times. And that showed during the Test series. In that context, this series win scripted by Dhoni and his band of the willing, should be celebrated for that, for that feel good factor.

Review: Bollywood, A History by Mihir Bose

By John Cheeran
The best thing about Bollywood: A History by Mihir Bose is the cover photograph of a beautiful Rekha. Bose is a prolific, award winning author and journalist but his take on Bollywood comes across a lazy effort with no insights coming through.
Now Bose has written many books, I haven’t any, but that should not stop me from pointing out that his attempt was amateurish and his book has come about only by extensive research, in other words, lifting copiously from others who had done original work.
It is amazing that Bose wrote Bollywood with just one interview, (or it a series of interviews) he had with director Shyam Benegal. Throughout the book, Bose takes refuge in Benegal to hold his book together. Then he quotes all and sundry including Shobha De (Selective Memories), Bunny Reuben, Raju Bharatan et al.
Given this is a work of history and the fact that Bose has mostly relied on others’ work to write it, it is a pity that writer has not bothered to provide footnotes. So Bose has camouflaged his lack of effort. He did not speak to Raj Singh Dungarpur, but he quotes extensively him regarding Lata Mangeshkar’s role in Bollywood during the chapter “The Explosion of the Bombay Film Song.”
May be that’s the way seasoned journalists work.
And then there is the atrocious editing that irritates one to the core. If not for paying Rs 495, I would not have read this at all.
I have with me Bose’s History of Indian Cricket, and again, by claiming to be comprehensive, Bose has fed others works and produced a book that won an award.
And going by the number of books he has written on a number of varied subjects, one wonders whether all of them suffer from the similar shoddy practice?

Monday, August 25, 2008

Dhoni upstages Jayawardene as India takes lead

By John Cheeran
So Mahendra Singh Dhoni and his men displayed the verve and nerve to defeat the World Cup runners up for the second time in a row.
This is India’s team for the future, and it is heartening to note that Dhoni has some control over the proceedings with a firm grip on his bat.
Sunday’s result has given India the lead.
Its pacers are getting them early wickets and slowly Ajantha Mendis’s shock value is dissipating. In the last two matches, one might see an equal fight for supremacy between India and Sri Lanka.
But for all that, what has struck me during the game is that India does not have a classy batsman at the moment in the mould of Sri Lankan skipper Mahela Jayawardene.
After losing six wickets for 59, Mahela did not lose faith in him, and in cricket’s potential to throw up intriguing results. Mahela carried on bravely, and might have almost pulled off a daring win, if did not get out in the final overs.
Now who does such a role for India in the current squad?
Yes, Dhoni and Suresh Raina stitched the holes in Indian innings rather quickly, but the composure during a chase when you are comforted by the wagging of a long tail is something that should be admired.
Everyone has commented about the sunset of Indian batting as Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman watch their shadows lengthening.
They should go.
That is certain, and the coming series against Australia will be a test of their skills to rediscover themselves.
But the question remains -- are Badrinaths, Rohit Sharmas and Rainas up to the challenge of becoming the backbone of Indian batting?

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Is the United States's dominance in Olympics over?

By John Cheeran
Is the United States’ dominance in Olympics over?
China (51) upstaged the US (36) in terms of maximum gold medals in Beijing and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) ranks countries according to the weight of their gold.
In the total medal tally, the United States (110) has an edge over China 100). That’s only a small consolation for the US.
This power shift was not surprising, since it was in the making for some time and as a host China was anyway supposed to perform at its best.
In Athens, the US had logged 36 gold medals. China had 32 gold. So it was a pretty close race.
Before the Olympics, an analysis by economists at PriceWaterhouseCoopers concluded that China was on target to win 88 medals overall, compared with 87 for the US.
China has a population of 1.3 billion – more than four times that of the US, and the future Chinese dominance was a certainty.
Only in India’s case such statistics do not work.
But what Americans are really worried about is their decline in track and field events. Had they struck more gold in these events, they could have challenged the rise of the East in much better manner. Jamaica, led by world record breaking sprinter Usian Bolt, changed all that.
Mike Celizic, an analyst at MSNBC, traces the US decline to the explosion of popularity in baseball, football and basketball. “Great athletes go where the money and the fame are, and it’s not in track and field — not in America, anyway. A baseball player can make more in a year playing team sports than all but the very greatest in the world track will make in their careers. Other than the Olympics, there's no television exposure for track and field in the United States.
Universities are also losing interest. Scholarships are way down, especially for males, and colleges looking for a cheap way to meet Title IX requirements are dumping men’s track and wrestling to improve their ratios of male to female athletes. They could do it by creating more women’s sports, but it saves money to eliminate male sports, and they start with the ones people are least interested.”
But China has done some planning to come up with the great medal haul. Project 119, an intensive training programme that aimed to maximise Chinese progress into athletics and water sports, such as swimming, canoeing and sailing worked wonderfully.
Great Britain’s improved show also affected the US tally.
And even India got three medals, one of them being gold.
The Beijing Olympics has truly seen the Rise of the Rest than the Decline of America.

Who edits our newspapers?

By John Cheeran
The Sunday Times of India has carried a letter in today's edition.
It begins " Indira Gandhi famously said, “You were asked to bend but you chose to crawl.” Independence Day celebrations at the Juhu campus of SNDT University reminded me of this quote."

So who edits Sunday Times Of India? or who edits these pages?
Are copy editors not supposed to correct facts, even if they belong to a letter?

As far as I know that remark was made by L.K. Advani after the Emergency was lifted.

The same edition carries an AP wire story from the US which tells how some guys were fined for fixing the grammar in signboards in a park.
May be fixing facts, and grammar are punishable in newspapers too.

Friday, August 22, 2008

When Garcia Compliments Gulf News

By John Cheeran
I haven't seen an astute salesman other than the celebrated newspaper designer Mario Garcia. Garcia belongs to many schools,as and when it suits him, but most part of the time, he swears by packaging.
Now Garcia has redesigned many Indian newspapers including the Hindu and Hindustan Times. There may be admirers for such changes in design. I don't want to quarrel with that. But essentially Garcia is the guy who believes in packaging the shit.
And that's what he has done with Gulf News in Dubai. Gulf News is an huge free mailer masquerading as a newspaper. It relies on syndicated stuff and wires to fill up its 72 pages of main edition, assorted supplements and throw away magazines.
Now, I respect Garcia as a designer. I'm not surprised when he praises Gulf News in his latest blog entry.

But Mr. Garcia, you have improved the design of the paper. But what about the content? Gulf News can't even get right a promo, which you have shown in your blog.
The newspaper proudly says: Beyond the news: a variety of magazines compliment the Gulf News's content and coverage."

Now Mr. Garcia, what do you have to say about magazines COMPLIMENT the Gulf News?
When you next time preach your gospel at the spacious, and anti-septic news room of Gulf News, will you tell the editors at the newspaper that there is a difference between COMPLIMENT and COMPLEMENT, and the ability to choose the right word helps a great deal to produce a decent newspaper?
I'm sure you will not. For I remember the last time when you talked about split infinitives at your impromptu sermons, its managing editors fainted.
So what if Gulf News murders English, the murder happens on glossy pages and in a pool of expensive North American templates.
Long live the salesman.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Take Champions Trophy out of Pakistan

By John Cheeran
Who wants to go to Pakistan?
Not me. So how can I blame Australian, English and Kiwi cricketers who are not in a mood to go to Pakistan to play Champions Trophy in that perennially benighted country.
Those cricketers are scared.
You never know what happens in Pakistan the next moment. Not even Benazir Bhutto did.
Democracy in Pakistan is more dangerous than the General’s rule. Cricketers fear for their lives.
Soldiers go to Afghanistan, Iraq and fight for their respective governments. They have made their choice to live dangerously so they cannot back off when duty calls them.
Cricket, yes, is a circus. But cricketers are not soldiers, trained to battle extreme hardships. Balls are not bullets. Balls are not even bombs. Poor cricketers are experts only in negotiating the ball.
Well, the question is -- is it only in Pakistan that bombs go off?
Not in India, not in Sri Lanka?
Yes, terrorism is as much a reality in India as in Pakistan.
But unlike in Pakistan, India has a greater stature in the comity of nations (oh my God, how I hate to use that phrase). People ignore the bombs when they come to India.
For India is a state of mind, a state of mind, that cannot be confounded by jihadis.
Sharad Pawar and the Board of Control for Cricket In India (BCCI) are playing political games within the International Cricket Council, putting the ball firmly in the court of Australian Cricket Board, ECB, New Zealand Cricket. I love it. I even enjoy it.
But the only reasonable solution to break the impasse is to take Champions Trophy out of Pakistan and get on with the game.
Play ball, not bombs.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A Gold for Anju Bobby George

By John Cheeran
Anju Bobby George ended her Olympics with a whimper.
The 31-year old Indian long jumper could not make a single legal jump on Tuesday in Beijing and it was an inconsolable final chapter to her chequered international career.
But Anju Bobby George’s story as an athlete has many positive lessons for India’s Generation Next.
It was injury that spoiled her last hurrah in Olympics.
"I hurt my ankle in the warm-up. But since this is the Olympics I did not want to pull out. I tried my best but I was unable to do anything," Anju said and she was seen clutching her ankle after her last attempt on Tuesday.
But Anju was a force to reckon with in her chosen field. In the Athens Olympics she made the final and finished a creditable sixth with a jump of 6.83 metres.
At Beijing, she only needed to jump 6.75 for an automatic qualification into the final round.
On Tuesday the last of the 12 qualifiers, Chelsea Hammond of Jamaica, made the grade at 6.60m. A distance Anju would have surpassed with ease in normal circumstances.
So it was not the lack of ability. Anju may not have won a medal, but she could have held her own among the world’s best athletes with a sterling show.
After all, she is the only Indian athlete to have won a medal in the world athletics championship till date.
In the 2003 World Championships in Paris Anju won bronze medal with a jump of 6.70 metres. In 2005, at IAAF World Athletics final she had won silver.
But all her four-year long grind came to naught in Beijing. Was it the inability to handle the pressure at the ultimate stage of her sport that let Anju down?
I don’t think so.
Anju has handled the pressure quite well, and she is a veteran of two Olympics and many World Athletics Championships and Asian Games.
There is something other than ability that defines your life. Some call it luck. Some call it fate.
A name that comes to mind is that of Sergei Bubka. Bubka set a world record for breaking the world records in pole vault but he ended his career without an Olympic gold.
There is no comparison between Bubka and Anju.
Anju, in her own limited way told India, the nation, that with the right amount of information, training and dedication we could compete with dignity at the international level. Well, in fact P.T. Usha had proved that point years ago, in 1984, at the Los Angeles Olympics.
Anju has done consistently well to be a leading athlete in log jump, a name that was feared and respected by Russians and Americans.
Anju’s botched attempts in Beijing take on the hues of gold and silver when you look at the Indian society, large sections of which are still clad in the purdah of medieval approach to life.
Anju’s failed quest for Olympic gold attains significance when you stare at the fact India has never had a female athlete from the 18 per cent strong Muslim community.
Yes, we have had Aswini Nachappas, Valsammas, Sandhus, Jyotirmoyee Sikdars, Chitra Somans, Mandeep Kaurs, Geethas, Sini Joses, Povammas, Mridulas etc.
A community, that waits for Sachar commission to reserve for it quotas in national life. Why is it that Muslim women are running way from the reality and scared to engage with rest of the society?
Only, the glorious exception has been the brave and beautiful Sania Mirza. But athletics is unglamorous, hard work unlike tennis.
It is when you think of the mobile tents and female infanticides that happen in India, Anju’s sacrifices -- a young woman’s quest for an Olympic gold -- acquire fresh perspective and meanings.
At 31, with many predictable things in life, including a motherhood postponed, Anju has served India with honour and rare courage.
Let me salute Anju during her hour of agony.

India rely on Zaheer strikes to level the series

By John Cheeran
The one-day series has come alive with India upstaging Sri Lanka by three wickets in the second match on Wednesday.
India had a great start with pacer Zaheer Khan tearing apart the Lankan batting. The force was with India once Sri Lanka lost their rhythm and failed to post a teasing total other than 143.
Well, India again did struggle to reach the target.
But I’m quite happy that India won at all.
There may be a few positive pointers with S Badrinath showing the resolve to spend some time at the crease and score a few runs. Not the dream start, but a start nonetheless that contributed to morale-boosting victory. Equally significant was the 19-year-old Virat Kohli’s dour display as an opener. He has made it a crowded Delhi affair at the top of the order now.
Skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s ad-hoc methods again proved fruitful during the Indian innings but India should quickly build on this win and look like a winning unit in the remaining matches.

Indian wrestler Sushil Kumar wins bronze in Beijing Olympics

More joy for India in the Beijing Olympics.
Wrestler Sushil Kumar clinched the bronze medal after outclassing his Kazakhstan rival in a play-off in the men's 66 kg freestyle wrestling through repechage round.
Earlier, Sushil Kumar lost in the first round to Ukraine’s Andriy Stadnik in the men's 66 kg freestyle event.
Stadnik started of well as he earned the first point while Sushil levelled it soon but the tough Ukrainian took the lead again as he led the first round 2-1.
Stadnik strengthened his lead by scoring quick six points in the second round while Sushil didn't even score a lone point against his mighty Ukrainian opponent.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Indian cricket's misery continues in Sri Lanka

By John Cheeran
At some point in this five-match one-day series, I’m sure, India will find its way and overcome the Sri Lankan challenge. But to make a real fight of it, Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s men should win the second encounter slated for Wednesday.
It is not just the decline of Fabulous Four that plagues Indian batting. Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman are out of the one-day side. Now Virender Sehwag has twisted his ankle to add to India’s woes.
This should have been a wonderful opportunity for the Generation Next in Indian batting. But so far big knocks, innings that set the scoreboard burning, have not come from the bats of Rohit Sharmas, Virat Kohli and for that matter even from Suresh Raina, that young boy who has been scratching around the crease for quite a while.
None should blame the BCCI for not getting his chances. Yuvraj Singh is back. But he struggled as much as the Fab Four struggled against spinners Muttaiah Muralitharan and Ajantha Mendis.
Dhoni is back from his luxurious break. He cannot now complain of the hectic schedule. There are no back-to-back matches in the current series against Sri Lanka. It’s time he put a stop to India’s slide against Lankans.
Well, one could take refuge in the fact that this series is just another string of one-dayers. More matches will come our way. But alarmingly the series – both Test and one-dayers -- have brought out the inadequacies of Indian cricket to the sunlight.
India needs performers, consistent performers to slay the opposition.

Science of Running Fast: NYT

Published: August 18, 2008
BEIJING — More than 24 hours had passed since Usain Bolt’s redefining of the 100 meters, and Ato Boldon, the voluble Trinidadian who used to run the 100 for a good living, was still trying to comprehend what he had seen.
“It’s amazing, and I’m not sure I’ve wrapped my mind around it yet,” said Boldon, a four-time Olympic medalist turned television commentator.
Bolt, for his part, did not appear to be asking himself too many questions on Monday, comfortably negotiating the first two rounds of his next challenge: the 200 meters.
Some, including Michael Johnson, are increasingly warning that Johnson’s ethereal 12-year-old record of 19.32 seconds from the Atlanta Olympics is on borrowed time. But for now, the only world record that the aptly named Bolt, of Jamaica, holds is the 100, which he ran in 9.69 seconds on Saturday in the Bird’s Nest despite slowing to celebrate in the final quarter of the race.
He ran 9.69 with no measurable wind, which is highly unusual for an outdoor race. Those are not ideal conditions for a sprinter. Ideal conditions are closer to what Bolt had in New York in June, when he had a following wind of 1.7 meters per second while setting the record in 9.72 seconds.
The consensus is that every meter per second of following wind subtracts approximately five one-hundredths of a second from a sprinter’s time. “You put the wind he had in New York behind the 9.69 here, and O.K., now we could be down in the 9.5s except that he shut down with 20 meters to go,” Boldon said. “So now, I’m like, O.K., is that in the 9.4s? It’s mind-boggling.”
Or is it? Considering the checkered doping records of too many former 100-meter world-record holders, it is best to keep the superlatives under rein. In the last decade alone, the Americans Tim Montgomery and Justin Gatlin have been suspended and stripped of the record.
But Jean-François Toussaint, the director of the Paris-based Institute of Biomedical Research and Epidemiology in Sports, recently told the French sports daily L’Equipe that according to statistical models, 75 percent of the existing track and field world records are essentially out of reach but that the men’s 100 is among the 25 percent still in play.
Bolt, who has never failed a drug test, has arguments in his favor. He is not a suspiciously late bloomer. Instead, he is a precocious talent (the youngest male world junior champion in the 200 at age 15) who has only recently started running the 100 seriously and who, at 21, is the youngest man to break the 100 record.
More intriguing from a technical standpoint, there is the new paradigm theory, linked to Bolt’s unusual 6-foot-5 stature — three inches taller than Carl Lewis and two inches taller than Tommie Smith, the sprinters to whom he is most often compared.
Though Bolt is the tallest man to hold the record, he is not the first sprinter of his height to succeed in this era. Francis Obikwelu, the Nigerian-born runner who now represents Portugal, is also 6-5 and won the silver medal in the 100 at the 2004 Olympics.
But Bolt has now run 0.17 seconds faster than the 30-year-old Obikwelu has ever run with significantly less refined technique. So how did he manage a 9.69 with no wind on Saturday?
First, he had a fine opening phase of the race by his standards, even though he had the seventh-slowest reaction time in the eight-man field. “It takes a while when you’re that tall to actually get into the groove when you’re coming from sitting down basically,” said Donovan Bailey, the 1996 Olympic champion in the 100 and a former world-record holder. “I actually thought after 30 meters that Asafa Powell or even Walter Dix would be leading, but they weren’t. I called it all week. What’s going to end up happening if he jumps on them before 30 meters? Good night.”
Boldon thinks early pressure applied by the eventual silver medalist Richard Thompson in an adjacent lane helped Bolt push himself further. “An excellent start for him next to guys six, seven, eight inches shorter is not going to look great on tape,” Boldon said.
Boldon and Bailey see ample room for improvement in Bolt’s early phase. “He’s 21 years old and been really running 100 meters for four months,” Bailey said. “He’s raw.”
Boldon thrust his head forward and then jerked his chin upward. “His neck is arched coming out of the blocks like this,” Boldon said. “That’s a big no-no for somebody that tall.”
But both Boldon and Bailey marveled at the baseline speed Bolt displayed on Saturday from 30 to 70 meters, which is when a 100-meter runner hits his stride. “I don’t know how it’s possible to get faster in his middle 40 but he’s going to,” Bailey said laughing.
Bolt has a high knee lift for a sprinter, which Boldon said helps him generate force. But despite the physics involved, Bolt has a quicker turnover rate than would be expected of someone of his height, which means that he can finish one stride and begin another in a surprising hurry.
“A big wheel is going to turn over slower than a small wheel, and it used to be thought that was a disadvantage except now when you see this guy who has the turnover of somebody six feet,” Boldon said. “Add that to the fact that he’s probably covering three or four more inches with every stride and that he’s only taking 40 to 41 strides to finish a 100, and you cannot argue with the math.”
Boldon said he and the former 100-meter record-holder Maurice Greene, who are both 5-9, used to finish their races in 45 or 46 strides. Tyson Gay and Powell, Bolt’s top current competition, are at about 45. Lewis required between 43 and 44 at his fastest.
Boldon said Bolt was at 41 strides on Saturday but would surely have been at 40 had he not slowed toward the end. “All of a sprint’s velocity is created from point of touchdown until the foot is directly below the body,” said Dr. Ralph Mann, a biomechanist with USA Track and Field. “Bolt’s long stride means that he is creating velocity for a longer period than shorter runners.”
The French sprint coach Jacques Piasenta contends that Bolt, irrespective of his height, has “extraordinary feet” that allow him to push particularly hard and fast off the track and act as propulsers more than shock absorbers.
The rub is that Bolt stopped trying to run fast in the final 20 meters on Saturday. Bailey said he believed Bolt would have run “between 9.55 and 9.57” if he had pushed through the finish. “I’ll be conservative and say 9.59,” Boldon said.
But neither man was feeling conservative about Bolt’s future. “We don’t get style points, and that’s what’s good about the 100 meters, but he absolutely will get technically sounder,” Bailey said. “He’ll get tighter, like maybe Carl Lewis, systematically down the track.”
The last word, as usual, went to Boldon: “Swimming has their LZR suits and their deeper pools,” he said. “We have a 6-foot-5-inch guy that’s running 9.6s and beating the rest of the Olympic field by two tenths of a second. He’s our new technology.”

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Putting Abhinav Bindra's Olympic gold in perspective

By John Cheeran
Is Abhinav Bindra’s individual gold in Beijing Olympics the greatest sporting achievement by India, the nation, or by an Indian?
Bindra is the first Indian to have gone into what was considered an impossible landscape of sporting glory. This 26-year-old from Chandigarh deserves his moment of magnificence.
But can we afford to lose perspective in the wake of Abhinav’s glittering gold?
Indian media has been struggling to come to terms with this Olympic gold medal in Beijing. Some of them have declared Abhinav’s gold is better than the 1983 Cricket World Cup triumph in England.
Kapil Dev, only known for his out swingers and outrageous comments, has declared that is better than his team’s win in 1983. How silly you can get Kapil?
What about India’s eight Olympic gold medals in hockey?
What about India’s 1975 World Cup triumph in hockey, for that matter?
The fact is that many of the sport editors in Indian media, both print and television, would not have heard about all these. They, in fact, deserve to be shot at by Abhinav Bindra.
It is their (sports commentators) inability to deal with sport in general, and Olympics in particular, has led to statements that Beijing gold is nation’s greatest sporting glory as Abhinav fired shots after shots befitting an assassin.
Olympics is a strange beast.
With 28 disciplines, none knows who is doing what.
These 28 disciplines are a token to the vanity of the International Olympic Council and have nothing to do with sport as common man, or even George Orwell understood it.
It was Orwell who wrote sport is war minus shooting.
But shooting, as a sport, can be considered only as something that far removed from war.
Let’s tackle this quite honestly.
Shooting is an elite sport, an expensive pastime.
Shooting as a sport, at its best, could be a meditation, something only the rich can afford to indulge in.
I almost puked while watching Bindra family’s reaction to their son’s brilliant achievement.
Bindra senior’s gloating nailed the lie that this is a moment of glory for we, the nation. It was the kind of exultation when a rich family’s planning and purse strings come good at a global stage. India, it seems, was an excuse for Abinav’s obsessive pursuit.
Let’s be honest with ourselves.
How many were expecting Abhinav to shoot gold in Beijing? Not me? Not many. Not the majority.
Did anyone in India were following the early rounds of shooting? Did anyone of you bet at least one rupee on Abhinav winning the Olympic gold?
Did anyone of you pray, rearrange your seats for better luck or hold onto the same position for not upsetting the alignment of fortune, when the young man was peering through to the target in some secluded spot in Beijing?
Sport becomes sport when it takes you to the edge of despair along with the athlete. Sport becomes sport when it takes you to the brink of defeat and brings you back to the cliff of glory.
Sport becomes sport when you struggle with your demons for the 100 overs of a one-day match, or every session of a five-day Test match.
Or for that matter those 90 minutes of unrelieved tension during a football match or 70 minutes of a hockey encounter.
You won’t kill anyone or yourself, after watching a shooter miss his target or a synchronized swimmer falter in her movements.
As I said earlier Olympics is a strange beast. It helps to know this beast to get closer to the real thing. Olympics is for track and field. Olympics is for boxing. Olympics is for hockey. Olympics is for swimming.
You cannot compare achievements in those disciplines with that of any exotic sports such as shooting, kayaking, beach volleyball, equestrian, fencing, archery, water polo, sailing etc. These are extras that provide that sense of wholeness to the IOC’s exercise in grandeur.
That’s why generations to come will recall with incredible pride and joy India’s eight Olympic hockey golds, 1975 World Cup hockey title, 1983 Cricket World Cup triumph and 2007’s Twenty20 World Cup win.
In my book, even Milkha Singh’s exciting run in Rome and P. T. Usha’s graceful strides in Los Angeles will be far higher than Abhinav’s glittering gold.
Those were the moments when a nation cried in joy for what could have been.
So when shall us grow up to tell sport apart from pastime?

India's Test series loss in Sri Lanka: Looking for reasons

By John Cheeran
It is very difficult to get excited over a Test series against Sri Lanka, though they are former world champions much like us.
Sri Lanka is one of the strongest cricket sides and with the introduction of freak spin bowler Ajantha Mendis, the island nation has strengthened its bowling.
Still none had foreseen India’s plight in Lanka. India lost the Test series 1-2 and reason for the defeat is quite apparent this time. Indian middle order batting collapsed against quality spin attack of Mendis and Muttaih Muralitharan.
Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly have served Indian cricket with distinction but the reality is that they are struggling to live up to their past glory. Even VVS Laxman follows a similar trajectory, though a shade better.
Indians are traditionally known to tackle spin better. But Tendulkar, Dravid and Ganguly fell cheaply without fully comprehending the bewildering variety of balls sent down by Mendis.
While agreeing with skipper Anil Kumble that middle order’s failure to play long innings was the reason for Test series loss, it has to be said that any nation aspiring for greatness and dominance should constantly able to throw up young talent. How come the BCCI not able to dig out gems such as a Mendis? What happened to our own big hope Piyush Chawla?
It must be pointed out that Indian cricket never sheds its enigmatic ways. For long Indian team’s bane was poor start at the top of their innings. It was said that Indian middle order always had to struggle to resuscitate the innings as the openers go so early. In Sri Lanka, openers – Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir – gave the side roaring starts but, alas, the middle was shell shocked by a Lankan army boy.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Olympian blunder: Gulf News off the mark again

By John Cheeran
Again Gulf News does it. That is, how to invite ridicule upon it.
Today's (August 12, 2008) Gulf News front page has a story that hails Indian shooter Abhinav Bindra, who won the country's first individual gold in Olympics.
The writer says "the 25-year-old from the western state of Gujarat," (see the image)
Bindra is Indian, but he belongs to Chandigarh and Punjab. Gulf News Sport Editor, I gather that, is an Indian but cannot get even the name of the state right, when his countryman shoots a historic gold medal.
India's misery in Olympics ended on Monday with Bindra shooting it right.
When will Gulf News readers' misery end?
Who will shoot the nitwits who produce such miserable stuff day after day?

Abhinav Bindra's Olympics Gold and India, the nation

By John Cheeran
Is Abhinav Bindra’s individual gold in Beijing Olympics the greatest sporting achievement by India, the nation, or by an Indian?
Bindra is the first Indian to have gone into what was considered an impossible landscape of sporting glory. This 26-year-old from Chandigarh deserves his moment of magnificence.
But can we afford to lose perspective in the wake of Abhinav’s glittering gold?
Indian media has been struggling to come to terms with this Olympic gold medal in Beijing. Some of them have declared Abhinav’s gold is better than the 1983 Cricket World Cup triumph in England.
Kapil Dev, only known for his out swingers and outrageous comments, has declared that is better than his team’s win in 1983. How silly you can get Kapil?
What about India’s eight Olympic gold medals in hockey?
What about India’s 1975 World Cup triumph in hockey, for that matter?
The fact is that many of the sport editors in Indian media, both print and television, would not have heard about all these. They, in fact, deserve to be shot at by Abhinav Bindra.
It is their (sports commentators) inability to deal with sport in general, and Olympics in particular, has led to statements that Beijing gold is nation’s greatest sporting glory as Abhinav fired shots after shots befitting an assassin.
Olympics is a strange beast.
With 28 disciplines, none knows who is doing what.
These 28 disciplines are a token to the vanity of the International Olympic Council and have nothing to do with sport as common man, or even George Orwell understood it.
It was Orwell who wrote sport is war minus shooting.
But shooting, as a sport, can be considered only as something that far removed from war.
Let’s tackle this quite honestly.
Shooting is an elite sport, an expensive pastime.
Shooting as a sport, at its best, could be a meditation, something only the rich can afford to indulge in.
I almost puked while watching Bindra family’s reaction to their son’s brilliant achievement.
Bindra senior’s gloating nailed the lie that this is a moment of glory for we, the nation. It was the kind of exultation when a rich family’s planning and purse strings come good at a global stage. India, it seems, was an excuse for Abinav’s obsessive pursuit.
Let’s be honest with ourselves.
How many were expecting Abhinav to shoot gold in Beijing? Not me? Not many. Not the majority.
Did anyone in India were following the early rounds of shooting? Did anyone of you bet at least one rupee on Abhinav winning the Olympic gold?
Did anyone of you pray, rearrange your seats for better luck or hold onto the same position for not upsetting the alignment of fortune, when the young man was peering through to the target in some secluded spot in Beijing?
Sport becomes sport when it takes you to the edge of despair along with the athlete. Sport becomes sport when it takes you to the brink of defeat and brings you back to the cliff of glory.
Sport becomes sport when you struggle with your demons for the 100 overs of a one-day match, or every session of a five-day Test match.
Or for that matter those 90 minutes of unrelieved tension during a football match or 70 minutes of a hockey encounter.
You won’t kill anyone or yourself, after watching a shooter miss his target or a synchronized swimmer falter in her movements.
As I said earlier Olympics is a strange beast. It helps to know this beast to get closer to the real thing. Olympics is for track and field. Olympics is for boxing. Olympics is for hockey. Olympics is for swimming.
You cannot compare achievements in those disciplines with that of any exotic sports such as shooting, kayaking, beach volleyball, equestrian, fencing, archery, water polo, sailing etc. These are extras that provide that sense of wholeness to the IOC’s exercise in grandeur.
That’s why generations to come will recall with incredible pride and joy India’s eight Olympic hockey golds, 1975 World Cup hockey title, 1983 Cricket World Cup triumph and 2007’s Twenty20 World Cup win.
In my book, even Milkha Singh’s exciting run in Rome and P. T. Usha’s graceful strides in Los Angeles will be far higher than Abhinav’s glittering gold.
Those were the moments when a nation cried in joy for what could have been.
So when shall us grow up to tell sport apart from pastime?

Monday, August 11, 2008

Abhinav Bindra wins India's first individual Olympic gold medal

This is simply awesome. This is history. This is India rising in Beijing.

Abhinav Bindra won India's first individual Olympic gold medal on Monday with a breathtaking come-from-behind victory in the men's 10m air rifle.

Bindra was fourth after qualifying but had a brilliant final round and the Indian, described by the Reuters reporter on the scene as the epitome of tranquillity, hit a near perfect 10.8 on his last shot to pull in front of Henri Hakkinen of Finland, who fell to bronze with a poor final shot.

That late stumble by the Finn allowed China's Zhu Qinan, the defending Olympic champion and heavy favourite, to salvage a bitter day with silver. Zhu sobbed uncontrollably on the podium and again at a news conference.

"I can't describe how happy I am," the ever-calm Bindra told journalists. "It's the thrill of my life. That's about it. It's hard to describe. I just went for it. I knew I was lying in fourth. Thankfully it went my way and I just went for it."

Zhu suffered a lapse in concentration in the qualification earlier when he had to rush his final shots to make the time limit, dropping to second behind Hakkinen ahead of the final.

"I was under tremendous pressure and at times I felt really agitated," Zhu said just before stepping on the podium and breaking down in tears. "But I tried my best."

Moments later at the news conference Zhu was crying harder.

"I've been through a lot of hardship and shed a lot of tears in the last four years, there have been successes and failures," he said. "After 2004 my only aim has not changed. I had so very much wanted to be a champion at the Beijing Olympics."

He added: "In the last two rounds I made several mistakes because I had used up all my physical and mental energy."

Bindra, who faced criticism for failing to deliver on the great promise he showed as a child, said he was not thinking about making history in India with a first individual gold medal. In fact, he said, he was "not thinking about anything".

"I was just trying to concentrate on shooting," he said. "I wasn't thinking of making history. I was two points behind the leaders. I was just trying to shoot good shots. I wanted to shoot well and shoot aggressively. And that's what I did."

His 10.8 of a possible 10.9 on his final shot sparked loud celebrations from group of fans from India.

Hakkinen, who was even with Bindra before his mere 9.7 on his last shot, said that crucial shot felt like the nine before it.

"It just wasn't my turn," he said. "It shows that shooting is a sport from the first to the final shot. Every one counts."

Randhir Singh, Indian Olympic Association secretary-general and former shooter who was present at the range, was stricken by nerves as the competition reached its climax.

"I haven't prayed so much in my life. With the second last shot they tied together and then he (Bindra) shot a 10.8. It couldn't have got better," he told Indian television.

Bindra won the 2006 world championships and finished seventh in Athens four years ago.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

My Name is Red: Orhan Pamuk - A Review

By John Cheeran
Orhan Pamuk’s My Name is Red is that infuriating novel which teases you with a riddle till you almost throw away the bulky paperback.
My Name is Red is a brilliant and bewitching account of Istanbul and the pages are refulgent with the last embers of Islamic tradition of miniature painting, threatened with the onslaught of Western mode of realistic portraiture.
The question that divides the Istanbul miniaturists is whether one should paint as Allah sees the things or as the miniaturists themselves see it. The view from top of the minarets and view from the ground.
One can only wonder about Pamuk’s mastery over the language; what an English reader gets is a translation. But Pamuk has an eye for detail and his baroque way of narration, with an almost effeminate miniaturist Black Effendi pursuing his love, the most beautiful Shekure, is indeed keeps the reader engaged.
It, however, gets tedious when at every turn while looking for the double murderer the narrative falls back to old tales and tiring repetition. Pamuk gets obsessed with his colour schemes and arcane games. For me My Name is Red is the war of attrition between two lovers – Shekure and Black. It is a love story that stays with you, played out in the palette of life in the dim lights of Istanbul.

Let me quote these rapturous lines from My Name Is Red
“I can’t say I completely understood why Persian poets, who for centuries had likened the male tool to a reed pen, also compared the mouths of us women to inkwells, or what lay behind such comparisons whose origins had been forgotten through rote repetition – was it the smallness of mouth? The arcane slice of the inkwell? Was it that God Himself was illuminator? Love, however, must be understood, not through the logic of a woman like me who continually racks her brain to protect herself, but through its illogic…..Like a solemn ship that gains speed as its sails swell with wind, our gradually quickening lovemaking took us boldly into unfamiliar seas….
At the peak of pleasure, he cried out like the legendary heroes cut clear in half with a single stroke of the sword in fabled pictures that immortalized the clash of Persian and Turanian armies; the fact that this cry could be heard throughout the neighbourhood frightened me.
Like a genuine master miniaturist at the moment of greatest inspiration, holding his reed under the direct guidance of Allah, yet still able to take into consideration the form and composition of the entire page, Black continued to direct our place in the world from a corner of his mind even through his highest excitement.
“You can tell them you were spreading salve onto my wounds, “ he said breathlessly.
These words not only constituted the colour of our love – which settled into a bottleneck between life and death, prohibition and paradise, hopelessness and shame --- they also were the excuse for our love.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Blogging Unconference on August 16 at Allappuzha

By John Cheeran
Do bloggers come out of their den and let sun shine on them?
Some of them, yes.
I have been informed that a group of bloggers in Kerala are organising the first Blogging Unconference event in Kerala called BlogCamp Kerala 2008 on August 16 at Allappuzha.
The event is hosted by the Kerala Tourism. BlogCamp Kerala 2008, claim its organisers Kenney Jacob and Anand Subramaniam, is the first BlogCamp in the world to be conducted in a Houseboat.
More information about the event is available at
Blogging is an activity that can take as much forms as the variety of individuals who are indulging them. There are hardly any rules, nay, even conventions, regarding blogging. India and Kerala are far from tech-evolved except for emailing and digging for porn.
Unlike the US, power to blogger in India is a distant dream.
Getting together in a way Blogging Unconference has planned might help. Though each blogger might be desperately seeking attention to himself/herself, there can be common ground among them.
Here is wishing all the best for Blogging Unconference.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

India defeat Sri Lanka by 170 runs to regain lost pride

By John Cheeran
India hit back in style at Galle on Sunday as spinner Harbhajan Singh combined with Ishant Sharma and Anil Kumble to turn the tide in tourists’ favour and defeat Sri Lanka in the second Test by 170 runs.
One is tempted to think what a crucial role toss plays in Test match cricket. Sri Lankan captain won the first Test at Colombo with the toss as his side put up a huge score and two Ms, Muralitharan and Mendis, dragged Indian batsmen to their death to inflict a humiliating innings defeat.
Now India has returned the favour. Anil Kumble won the toss at Galle, batted first, put up a decent score thanks to a defiant innings from Virender Sehwag. Then, Harbhajan made amends for the patchy show in the first Test by snaring the magnificent Sri Lankan batters at their home ground.
Yes, it was not toss alone. Sehwag showed the way for the rest of the Indian batsmen with his sure-footed, aggressive run making and Harbhajan’s haul of ten wickets put the seemingly invincible Sri Lankans in trouble. They wilted.
Again without a meaty knock from Sachin Tendulkar, India has fashioned an overseas Test win. The significance should not be lost with the win.
Skipper Anil Kumble deserves some praise for keeping faith in the side that lost without putting up a fight in Colombo and going into the second Test. Not that the victory cleanses the side of its sins and blemishes. Zaheer Khan is pathetic as a fast bowler though he is the senior most pacer. Tendulkar, Dravid and Ganguly are not in hot form. Dinesh Karthick needs a break, especially when one thinks of the circus with his spelling.
But for the moment, the force, or is it the toss, is with India.

Friday, August 01, 2008

A man called Virender Sehwag

By John Cheeran
There goes a man by the name of Virender Sehwag in India. He can bat, they say.
Sehwag has asked some fundamental questions regarding batsmanship as few others have not done in modern cricket. May be another name could be Sanath Jayasuriya.
Sehwag has delighted millions by his boisterous batting but more often than not he also has confounded critics by his seemingly wanton ways at the wicket.
But the point is that in terms of sheer impact, Sehwag has played some defining knocks in world cricket, and may be among his contemporaries only VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid have entered that league.
Sehwag's unbeaten 201 off 211 balls in India's first innings total of 329 in the second Test against Sri Lanka at Galle is simply a mind boggling effort. It is not just talent alone that Sehwag brings to the crease. He of course has a game plan, but he prefers not to discuss it with us commentators and critics.
The basic nature of Virender Sehwag's batting has not changed since he began to play for India as a lower middle order bat in mid 90s. Sehwag leaves his cricket pretty uncomplicated and his fearless attitude towards rival bowlers as well as to the whole process of playing cricket has helped him achieve what more feted and seasoned batsmen have not so far. Sehwag plays fast, scores big and that alone has contributed a great deal towards Indian cricket's resurgence in the 2000s.
Yes, Sehwag is the only Indian batsman who has two triple centuries to his credit, a feat only Donald Bradmana and Brian Lara has achieved.
Nothing succeeds like success.
Now that Sehwag has overcome a mid career crisis that emboldened chairman of selectors Dilip Vengsarkar almost push him out of the 2007 World Cup squad, we can be unstinted in his praise. Sehwag knows little of traditions and goes about scoring runs in his own way, often infuriating watchers, as he did in the second innings of the Colombo Test, but he has a way of pleasing his own gods. Nothing else can explain the commanding way Sehwag handled the freak spin duo of Muttaiah Muralitharan and Ajantha Mendis in Galle. Just consider the fact the trinity - Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly -- could not together score 10 runs in the first innings puts Sehwag's unconquered innings in perspective.
May be gambling is also a science, and living life in its many splendoured varieties takes a lot from a man.
Attacking approach, the Twenty20 approach to life, is not all that bad when you are looking at the scoreboard in Galle and marvel at Sehwag's Hanumanesque effort in Lanka.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Appealing against Umpire- taking the mystery out of Test cricket

By John Cheeran
One of the great charms of Test cricket is its open-ended nature. If you are a batsman, you can score as many runs you wish till you run out of company.
And eleven men are something of a company, if not a crowd.
If you are a bowler, you could bowl till you tire out from wheeling the arm. Or until the last batsman departs.
Test cricket is not a precise science though as in any other sport it too has a scoreboard. But it conceals more than it reveals.
And both bowler and batman get a second chance to redeem himself in Test cricket, a luxury life does not give you.
Be that as it may, the decision to implement the Review System in Test cricket is shocking.
A system that forces Umpires to depend on television replays to reach a decision on a dismissal takes away the crux of cricket, its mystery. And if the Colombo Test match between Sri Lanka and India is any indication even the Review System cannot get everything right. Read elsewhere how the camera cannot detect the deviation and other devilries of a cricket ball.
You cannot expect umpires to be infallible in their judgments just as you cannot expect batsman and bowler to be infallible. Just as mistakes are part of life, mistakes are part of Test cricket. Umpiring errors do not matter much in Test cricket as everyone get more than ample chance to set right other’s mistake. Even if a Virender Sehwag is unjustly dismissed a Sachin Tendulkar gets an opportunity to undo the damage. That’s what is sport is all about, especially team sport.
And what relevance the Review System had on the outcome of the Colombo Test?
India lost the match all the way. Their spinners – captain Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh could not get wickets and their batsmen trembled at the sight of Muttaiah Muralitharan and Ajantha Mendis.
Kumble’s men lost by an innings and 239 runs, one of the worst defeats India has ever suffered in Test arena.
So what does review do to the fortunes of batsmen and bowlers?

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Colombo Collapse: Muralitharan and Mendis strip India bare

By John Cheeran
India lost the first Test against Sri Lanka in Colombo by an innings and 239 runs on Saturday, on the fourth day of the match.
Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka always have been formidable opponents but Indian batting's inability to offer even token resistance to spinners Muttaih Muralitharan and Ajantha Mendis and take the match into the final day is total disgrace. And that includes celebrated men such as Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid. It is a pity that in the first innings almost all of the front line batsmen got onto a decent start but none succeeded in playing a big innings, without which you cannot survive in Test cricket.
In fact in the Indian first innings, it was the last wicket partnership between VVS Laxman and Ishant Sharma that emerged as the biggest in terms of the number of balls played. So there were some good balls sent down by Muralitharan and Mendis but lack of application played a significant role in Indian batting's failure.
You go to South Africa, you struggle against pace.
You go to Sri Lanka, you struggle against spin, a diet as staple as rice and curry for an Indian.
India is the economic engine of world cricket, there is no doubt on that. But do we have quality batsmen and bowlers who can perform on all sorts of wickets and all sorts of climes?
Yes, winning the toss would have held its own advantages on tracks such as in Colombo but can't we expect some good old hard grind at the wicket from some of India's famed batsmen?
I know that it was not Tendulkar alone who failed with bat, but his failure to rise above the ruins once again will make his eventual tally of runs in Test cricket less brighter.
So the wait goes on for another moment of record as Indian cricket covers its shame with the fig leaf of Twenty20.

Tendulkar's date with record number of runs in Test cricket

By John Cheeran
On the eve of India's first Test against Sri Lanka the hype was on Sachin Tendulkar's date with another record, the biggest of them all in Mumbai batsman's refulgent career, the maximum number of runs in Test cricket.
Now that India has completed its first innings and began to follow on, Tendulkar's date with Brian Lara remains remote at least in this Test.
Or I'm mistaken yet again.
Tendulkar made 27 in the first innings and the follow on has presented the batting maestro another opportunity to overtake Lara as the highest run getter in Tests here and now.
The pathetic Indian batting, except by VVS Laxman, in the first innings should put Tendulkar's record hunt in perspective. What profits Indian cricket when a batsman runs after runs with no significant consequence for his team in the process?
I know that none, well, no bowler that is, will be able to stop Tendulkar from becoming the leading run getter in Tests. He will do it in this series, or in the next one.
But if Tendulkar could do it in the second innings of the current Test, at least one of his numerous records will have some meaning. At least it can avoid an innings defeat for India.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

CPI (M) expels Somnath Chatterjee from party

By John Cheeran
Finally CPI (M) has acted against Somnath Chatterjee by expelling the veteran comrade who fell in love with limelight in his twilight.
There is no surprise in the decision taken by the CPI (M).
Surprise was the long rope given to the Bengal comrade by the Party General Secretary Prakash Karat, despite defying and embarrassing the party during a critical ideological battle against the ruling Congress.
Somnath now will continue as the Lok Sabha Speaker, and his last supper will be prepared by both Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Madam Sonia Gandhi.
Again, I'm quite happy to see that the UPA survived the Trust Vote yesterday in the Parliament and the nuclear deal with the United States would be taken to its logical finish. It's a pity that Karat and comrades cannot invent a party line beyond the Anti-American slogan.
That does not exonerate Somnath from his crimes against the Party. The cheap stunt that Somnath put up over the week and during the Trust Vote debate should shame not only any comrade but anyone who has ventured into political life.
Anyone can fullfil a school master's role.
CPI (M)'s woes, however, do not end with the expulsion of Somnath. These are challenging times for the party and Karat has an onerous task ahead of him to position Indian communists in the Post-American world while swimming against the tide in the company of Mayawatis and Chandrababu Naidus.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Trust Vote Cup: UPA chasing a winning target of 271

By John Cheeran
The chase for the Trust Vote Cup India-US Nuclear Championship has begun a few minutes ago at the Parliament House in New Delhi.
After winning the toss, UPA Captain Manmohan Singh has decided to chase the target of 271, set by Left-UNPA-NDA captain Prakash Karat.
The match will finish only late tomorrow (July 22, Tuesday).
Left-UNPA-NDA bandwagon captain Comrade Karat sounded confident of preventing the UPA achieving the coveted mark of 271 in the two-day Test, which would give the green signal for the Congress and Manmohan Singh to go ahead with India-US nuclear deal.
But UPA Captain Manmohan Singh ruled out any absence of MPs in his coalition and was upbeat that they will win by a handsome margin tomorrow.
Mr Vayalar Ravi, an emerging spin doctor in the Congress ranks, even went to the extent of predicting the runs UPA will hammer against the Combined Opposition Team. “280 will be a winning score on a wicket like this,” Ravi ascertained.
With brilliant all rounders such as Amar Singh and Mulayam Singh Yadav, one cannot rule out the UPA’s chances though they are battling on a sticky wicket made more sticky by the latest move by the Western Uttar Pradesh Jat leader Ajit Singh to the Left-UNPA-NDA camp.
“We are in terrific form,” beamed L K Advani, the leading middle order batsman for the Left-UNPA-NDA bandwagon. “Our pinch hitters like Ajit knows the UPA game inside out. And our new teammate Karat’s ideological googlies are difficult to score off. Madam Sonia knows how difficult to bat against the Left. And our dark horse, Mayawati, can outclass Sonia in the crunch overs, “ Mr Advani added.
Both teams, however, are worried out about weather conditions in New Delhi. Though political temperature has risen, visibility is low owing to hazy seat-sharing arrangements and counter offers. Abstaining by MPs in certain parties is quite likely and will have an impact on the outcome of the Trust Vote Cup.

Somnath Chatterjee: Old man and bomb

By John Cheeran
Why has Somnath Chatterjee struck a defiant position and refused to quit as the speaker of Lok Sabha as per his party’s instructions?
Communist Party of India (Marxist) General Secretary Comrade Prakash Karat has made the party’s stand clear very early in the nuclear issue and had told Somnath to quit speaker’s post and strengthen the Left’s numbers to pull down the UPA government led by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Somnath’s refusal to do so, even as of July 21, is a major embarrassment for Karat and CPI (M).
I welcome the India-US nuclear deal.
I’m not a CPI (M) member and I’m entitled to hold an independent political opinion, which comrade Karat will agree.
But Somnath was elected to Parliament on a CPI (M) ticket. He has professed to be a communist throughout his 70-plus active political career. Communists, at least in theory, do not set much store by parliamentary practices, essentially a bourgeoisie exercise. They are revolutionaries. So why has Somnath fallen in love with parliamentary frolicking?
I, however, want to state that in India, starting from A. K Gopalan, India’s first Opposition Leader, to Indrajit Gupta, communists have been nation’s finest parliamentarians both in principle and practice.
But a Parliamentarian has to listen to his Party and its position, rather than indulging in conscience somersaults.
Somnath has taken a moral high ground saying that as speaker of the house he is above party politics. I must remind him that he owes his high horse to CPI (M) and as a true parliamentarian has to acknowledge and strengthen his party’s position. The only way he can do is that by quitting as speaker.
But Somanth today does not look like a communist. Somnath comes across an old man who has been enamoured by media attention in the twilight of his political life, and taken in by delusions of playing an impartial role in Indian history.
Please not mistake Somnath Chatterjee for a rebel with a cause.
He is the self-seeking rebel not much different from Ajit Singhs of this world.
His defiant position that if he is forced to quit as speaker he will quit as MP too, shows what an honest communist he has been! He even raised the quibble that Karat is forcing communist to vote along with Hindu right wingers, Bharatiya Janata Party.
It many not be pertinent at this juncture, but Somnath’s father was one of the founding members of Hindu Maha Sabha in Kolkata.
So much for ideological purity.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Manmohan and UPA favourites to win trust vote

By John Cheeran
Who will win the trust vote on July 22?
My take is that the UPA and Manmohan Singh will survive.
The parliamentary flotsam in New Delhi stands to gain zilch if the government is defeated on trust vote. If defeated, Manmohan Singh will continue as a caretaker Prime Minister, though nuclear deal will collapse.
But if the flotsam characters such as Rashtriya Lok Dal, Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, and Janata Dal MPs vote in favour of the UPA, they can nibble at some sort of power for the next nine months, or till when Sonia Gandhi decides to go for the polls.
Given the political climate, Congress will find it tough to return to power at Centre. Even the NDA will have strenuous times to muster the majority. That’s why splinter formations are in vogue.
That’s why the Price for an MP has gone up to Rs 30 crore.
Democracy is a costly enterprise.
We have to pay for it.
John Cheeran at Blogged