Sunday, February 10, 2008

Young India upset world champions Aussies

By John Cheeran
It is just not that the Young India won at Melbourne today but the Twenty20 World Champions defeated Fifty50 world champions Australia in a convincing fashion - by five wickets.
This is a remarkable win when you consider that India has beaten Australia in Australia in a Fifty50 international contest,
only twice in recent times.
During the 2003-2004 trip under Sourav Ganguly, India won only once against Australia in the triangular series. Let’s hope that Mahendra Singh Dhoni can build on the win at MCG and push the World Cup finalists to the brink in the coming days.
Low scoring matches in one-day internationals are rarer but they become quite often, engrossing affairs. So was the clash at MCG.
India and its bowling coach Venkatesh Prasad can afford a smile of satisfaction after young pacers S Sreesanth and Ishant Sharma exploited the weather conditions in a sensible manner.
The early blows delivered by Sreesanth and Ishant rattled the cocky Aussies after Ricky Ponting elected to bat.
If not for Michael Hussey’s grit and gumption, World Champions would have struggled to go past 100.
India did well to reach the target of 160 runs without much flutter though they lost five wickets. Sachin Tendukar’s experience of having seen and played through such variegated playing conditions all over the world shone through as he tamed Brett Lee, Bracken and Johnson.
Rohit Sharma, another Mumbai boy, would have learnt from the Tendulkar tackled the attack. For Rohit, the learning curve continues Down Under.
But for Yuvraj Singh’s wretched form with the bat, things are slowly falling in place for the Young India.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Vikram Chandra's Sacred Games: A Review

By John Cheeran
Finally I finished it - reading Vikram Chandra’s Sacred Games.
Sacred Games’ volume kept me away from it for more than a year but with nothing better to do during these days I raced through with delight and towards the end with disappointment.
Vikram Chandra does not need any certificate from me for his ability as a writer. He writes well and the world has recognized his talent.
Sacred Games, however, does not go beyond being a page-turner. And even in that sense, Chandra lets the reader down after promising much in the early stages of the novel.
Chandra has spent considerable energy in building Ganesh Gaitonde’s character but it all comes to naught when he tackled the mystery surrounding his suicide.
Only a naïve reader would be convinced by Chandra’s reasoning that Gaitonde shot himself when provoked by a pimp that his great turn on Zoya Mirza was faking it all.
Where else have you read a crime lord committing suicide when questioned about his virility?
Chandra should have tried harder to work his plot better.
So is the mystery regarding Sidharth Shukla, the guru, who had a master plan to remake the universe but Chandra makes him vanish without enough explanations.
It is quite evident that Chandra started playing the Games without having much of a clue about the all-important end game.
Chandra, however, has a wonderful eye for detail and a dazzling sense of humour. He has managed to place the Sacred Games in the heart of contemporary India, and more specific, Mumbai.
Some of his lines have stayed with me. Let me quote him.
“I could put two bullets in every limb, one in her belly, one in her chut, one in that unreachable heart.” That is Gaitonde on Mirza.
Have some more. “When she smiled your heart slammed into your spine and staggered your back like a bullet.”
“Typing in ‘lauda’, I found a site for an airline named exactly that, and a site about some racing car driver.”
Chandra, I must say, had ambitions to match the scale and intensity of what Don Delillo achieved in his Underworld, but has fallen by quite a long distance.
In recent times there has been a spate of books on Mumbai. Sukutu Mehta’s Mumbai: the Maximum City and Gregory Robertson’s Shantaram were remarkable in their distinct ways. Maximum City was great journalism and Shantaram won praise for its fictionalized account of lives in peril.
Alas, Chandra has frittered away his opportunity to write that Great Indian Novel.
Better luck next time.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Peter Lalor, The Australian, and We The Indians!

By John Cheeran
The Australian newspaper’s cricket writer Peter Lalor has provoked a debate on the unfair reportage by the Indian media during the just finished Test series against Australia Down Under.
Lalor makes two big points in his column. One is about umpiring and other is on crowd behaviour.
Lalor excoriates Indian media for their hypocrisy.
He refers to when the West Indian umpire Steve Bucknor did not give Indian fast bowler S Sreesanth out during the first Test at Lord’s when England required only one wicket to win the match. Many felt that Sreesanth was out LBW on that occasion but Indian media did not discuss that decision but were happy with the draw.
So, Lalor asks, why make such a fuss when the same Bucknor makes more mistakes, now against India in Australia?
Well, Lalor, everyone has a right to be stupid, but one should not abuse that right.
When Bucknor did not give Sreesanth out, it was not Indian media’s business to protest that decision, England has its cricket writers. The BCCI with its money power did not muzzle out the English media.
And, Lalor, being cognoscenti, should have known that Indian media and team management were not protesting decisions against a No.11 batsman.
A decision going against No.11 batsman has only that importance, even considering the match situation at Lord’s.
England was pressing for a win, and visibility was poor etc.
England did not win the Lord’s Test against India not because Bucknor’s stupidity but their bowlers’ incompetence.
And in Australia Anil Kumble’ s boys had to contend with Bucknor giving not out to a seasoned all rounder such as Andrew Symonds. And other stupid decisions that resulted in the dismissals of Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly.
Lalor must be really a patriot to compare Sreesanth decision to the horrendous blunders Bucknor committed in the second Test at Sydney.
And to consider that Symonds had the cheek to declare that he knew he was out when Bucknor refused to give him out! And Lalor has no problems with a player who betrays the spirit of the sport.
Indians and their media have every right to be incensed. Their incandescent rage, in fact, played a major role in India winning the third Test at Perth.
And Perth victory nailed Lalor’s argument. India showed that they can trump Australia given fair umpiring.
Lalor should remember that in the series he was referring to, England never came close to winning the remaining two Tests, that too on their home turf. In fact Rahul Dravid’s India won the second Test and almost won the third Test.
Now for the monkey chant against Symonds.
Lalor should know that in some regions, Indians build temples for their monkeys. Lord Hanuman and his great leap across to Sri Lanka are great feats in Indian folklore.
And remember this. Who’s whining? Aussies. Those who employed under arm bowling against Kiwis, and the masters of sledging.
And Lalor should know this-- Indian cricket fans come from a social spectrum, unimaginable for an average Aussie. You will find beggars, sadhus, corporate honchos, teens, veterans, fishmongers, Hindus, Christians, Muslims, Jains, Buddhists, poets, perverts and drunkards at the Indian stands.
All of them may not react like what you may prefer to call in a ‘civil’ manner.
We lynch our neighbours when a riot suits us.
Aussies should be grateful for what they get while they come playing. Including Symonds, that is.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Brisbane rain may wash away India's sins

By John Cheeran
India escaped from Brisbane with two points in a game in which they deserved none. Australia, thanks to Brett Lee’s brilliant bowling clearly had the edge, but rain during the Aussie innings came to Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s rescue.
It was a young, experimental batting line up from India at Gabba. None can quarrel with the team management for giving Manoj Tiwari and Rohit Sharma their chances. Rohit did play some colourful strokes, but the youngster needs to think beyond Twenty20s.
So should Dhoni. Where are the runs, Indian captain?
It is quite right thing to talk about 2011 World Cup, but let’s concentrate on the task at hand -- that is, winning the tri-series against Aussies and Sri Lanka.
I’m sure as the days go by, India’s one-day team, with a large dose of youngsters, will find its moorings and keep the series alive.
In fact, in the absence of Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid, Dhoni has a great opportunity now in Australia to make amends for the collective crime of Indian team during the World Cup in the West Indies.
Can there be a better chance to tell the world that Indians are a combative side in the pulsating arena of one-day cricket when you have enemies such as world champions Australia and runners up Sri Lanka?
May be, the rain at Gabba might have washed away the Indian cricketers’ sins and purified their mind and body for the battles ahead.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Meaning and meltdown in Melbourne

By John Cheeran
Only a fool will read too much into the nine-wicket drubbing India received at the hands of Australia in the Twenty20 match in Melbourne.
But on the other hand, this loss was no ordinary defeat. If you haven’t forgotten, Indians are the World Champions of Twenty20.
So Mahendra Singh Dhoni and his stunt boys should have performed better than a bunch of clowns. They should have come up with something better than the 74 they posted.
And more vexing is the fact that Robin Uthappas, Gautam Gambhirs, Rohit Sharmas and Dinesh Karthicks could not stretch the Indian innings to 20 overs.
Captain Dhoni has improved only in his captaincy as he rightly blamed the batsmen and their irresponsible ways for the defeat.
What did Dhoni himself do?
On the current form, he should be nowhere near the Indian dressing room.
And in the end, a few of us were left wondering why Sachin Tendulkar did not make his much-awaited debut in the Twenty20s at Melbourne.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Rahul Gandhi meets Madam Poverty

By John Cheeran
It indeed was a historic moment the other day at Amethi.
Much like Siddhartha, and quite strikingly that is, another Rahul was looking for meanings.
The Prince of India, and son of Amethi, left his New Delhi abode and went into the wilderness in search of what I’m being told, the meaning of poverty.
It is a pity that after 37 or so years of living as an Indian, Rahul Gandhi, had to visit a hut in Amethi to know all about poverty.
And this is after his grandma abolished the said phenomenon with the magic words of “Garibi Hatao” in 1970s.
Reports in the Indian media say that Rahul Gandhi asked a Dalit girl named Sunita the meaning of being poor during a fly-by-night revival of the political behemoth, the Congress Party.
Let me a quote from a newspaper report.
” Sunita’s reply that poverty to her meant spending the day working to ensure that there was diner at night moved the youth leader. He visited her kitchen and insisted that he would share their dinner. He sat on the floor of the kitchen and shared the meal the family had prepared for themselves.”
It is important to note that if all goes well, at a certain point in time, Rahul Gandhi is bound to shoulder the burden of ruling the nation. He is already representing Amethi constituency in the Parliament.
So whatever the Prince of India does, it matters.
But it should be better Rahul gets his enlightenment from the managers of his party rather than indulging in such gimmicks. Does Rahul admit that he became an MP without knowing anything about the living conditions of his voters in Amethi?
If Rahul was willing to see, he could have met Madam Poverty and her brood in New Delhi itself.
There is more to India than 10, Janpath, Mr Gandhi.
John Cheeran at Blogged