Sunday, June 29, 2008

Tired? Drink Pepsi Dhoni. Or else make way for Youngistan

By John Cheeran
Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni is smart, and he is bold to initiate again the debate on too much cricket. And this is for the first time an Indian captain admitting is confessing during a press conference that he and his team is tired. Tired?
And how old is he? He does not yet belong to the tired trinity of Indian cricket.
Pepsi executives must be greatly worried after that candor from the leader of youngistan. So after all, the fast bowler rascals are catching up with Dhoni.
Dhoni, of course, has a point when it comes to scheduling of the matches is concerned. Back-to—back matches are a strain even if you are only playing Hong Kong and Bangladesh.
But then won’t you die for India on cricket field, if it comes to that? At least that’s what the impression that is given to cricket watchers like me.
Of course, skipper Dhoni is speaking for his players. He is standing up for his team mates. But then, boys, cricket is all about making money than runs and wickets. And making money can, at times, be a little hard.
Too many matches and a vast and passionate cricket nation such as India should be able to handle it. There are many Dhoni’s waiting in the wing. End of the day it is a question of choice. If you are tired, you can inform the Board of Control For Cricket in India and take a break. Let open the doors for others.
The point is that international schedule is known way ahead and you could easily stay away from farces such as Kitply Cup. It is easy to pillory the BCCI for holding too many matches, but then players are complicit in the affair.
Yes, I agree that the BCCI should handle the talent pool it has with care, not using cricketers as contracted labour to enhance its cash reserve.
But, then, players should exercise their right to live, rather than just complaining about too much labour out in the middle. In the current episode, Dhoni could have stayed away from the joke of a tournament in Bangladesh after the excess of the Indian Premier League.

And in Asia Cup itself, what was the need for Dhoni to play against Hong Kong? He could have chilled out in the dressing room, and let Yuvraj Singh lead the side. With this kind of hectic scheduling, the trick is to rotate your players. Give others a chance. There is some element of risk involved in giving others a chance. They, the outsiders, may even steal your thunder, and those who are taking a vacation would find it tough to get in again. There is name for that in life. Competition. Everyone should sort this out.
I, for one, would have fewer Tests and one-dayers for it would have increased the intensity of cricket on view. Cricket, for that matter any sport, should be something that you could look forward to rather than like a sunrise. With only a few countries to spar with, contemporary cricket has reached the depths of boredom.
Now the point is that it is not just Dhoni and his team mates who are tired. The spectators, the television watchers, too are bloody tired watching you folks every day and night. Bring on new lads. Make way for the next wave. Refresh cricket.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Sehwag and Raina steer India to win over Pakistan in Asia Cup

By John Cheeran
India won with ease, by six wickets, against Pakistan in a preliminary match in the Asia Cup. It was a flat track, and led by Suresh Raina and Virender Sehwag, India reached 300 with 47 balls remaining. It could not get better than this for India and Mahendra Singh Dhoni in Pakistan.
Batsmen had it easy, and losing its fast bowler Umar Gul, Pakistan found it tough to contain their neighbours.
There is no great alarm for Pakistan, but I guess, India defeating Sri Lanka in their round robin clash to follow will boost Pakistan's chances of qualifying for the final.
And it was utterly shocking to hear Harsha Bhogle describe this encounter in Karachi between India and Pakistan an extra ordinary match. Extra ordinary? Survival tactics, may be.
I should consider myself lucky for not listening to Bhogle for a long, long time.

India-Pakistan cricket rivalry. Another run in Karachi.

By John Cheeran
In a few hours, India will play Pakistan at Karachi. Unlike in the past, neither India nor Pakistan is holding its collective breath over this preliminary Asia Cup game.
New Delhi is living through dramatic hours as the ruling UPA alliance is teetering on the brink of a nuclear meltdown occasioned by the intransigence of fundamentalist Marxists led by an incorruptible comrade Prakash Karat. Karat’s ideological stick has been hurting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for a long time, and if India is going ahead with its nuclear deal with the great satan, the United States, the UPA government would collapse.
So cricket is being pushed aside for the moment with the MP-count becoming paramount in the game for survival as temperature shoots up in New Delhi.
A defeat to Pakistan today would not matter much, if the loser can win, and lift the Asia Cup, in the two more matches likely to follow between the neighbours as the tournament progresses.
That makes today’s skirmish in Karachi a low intensity sniping between two young sides, not yet scarred by cross-border cricket.
But if you are keeping count, India has already lost a final, Kitply Cup, to Pakistan. Though an inconsequential game, Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni knows that a false step in Karachi will make the score 0-2.
With the nation regurgitating the 1983 World Cup triumph only the other day, onus will be on Dhoni, who has been described as a refurbished avatar of Kapil Dev, and his emerging devils.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Reliving June 25, 1983: when a nation fell in love with cricket

By John Cheeran
What was I doing on the night of June 25, 1983?
Where was I? In our haunt at a village in Kerala, southern India, there was no television set. The only link to the wide world was an old Murphy radio, and getting right the frequency for the BBC World was an arduous task indeed.
In a land of footballers, cricket was almost a stranger in Kerala of 1983. Still we had followed with avid interest when Keith Fletcher’s MCC side toured India for the Test series in 1982. I can still recall the garlanded image of Gundappa Vishwanath that Malayala Manorama published after the Bangalore batsman hit a brilliant double century in front of his home crowd at the Chinnaswamy Stadium.
One had to depend on BBC radio and reports that Manorama carried to follow the 1983 World Cup.
What I remember the most about that time was how torrid the monsoon that year was. When Kapil Dev came out that astonishing rearguard 175 against Zimbabwe my heart was in mouth, but mainly thanks to the fact that the roof of our was cracked open by a falling coconut tree from our own courtyard. Through that hole in the cloudy sky, I imagined the carnage at Turnbridge Wells, where Zimbabwe mocked India by uprooting the first five Indian wickets for less than 20 runs.
For me 1983 World Cup was all about the match against Zimbabwe than the final at Lord’s. Kapil’s daring at the batting crease, when the chips were down, was enough to fire any boy’s imagination.
We were no hopers; but that act of sublime daring told me at least certain things were possible, if not everything.
Compared to that, the final on June 25, 1983 was a tepid affair. We all were disappointed at the 183 India posted but then who had expected India to come so far, barely six years later when the country awoke from the internal emergency that then Prime Minister Ms Indira Gandhi imposed on a another milestone day in Indian history – June 25, 1975.
Ms Gandhi had returned to power in 1983, and was one of the earliest to bask in the reflected glory of Indian cricketers that summer.
It was not just Romi Dev who had little faith in Kapil by the time Viv Richards tore into Indian attack. We had switched off our Murphy radio, leaving Kapil and his Devils to their own devices.
But there was a strange light next morning, when we woke up. World had turned upside down. India had won the World Cup. India had won a famous victory on the turf their former masters.
It was only years later that I read Nick Hornby on football. But what he wrote about football and himself was absolutely true in case of cricket and me.
“I fell in love with football as I was later to fall in love with women: suddenly, inexplicably, uncritically, giving no thought to the pain or disruption it would bring with it.”
Yes, the pain and disruption was not far.
Within months of India’s glory moment at Lord’s, an enraged Clive Lloyd stormed through India, much like a modern Mahmud Ghazni, crushing the world champions in all the five one-day internationals played and in three Tests.
But Clive Lloyd and his vengeful band of fast bowlers could not douse the flames of my romance with cricket, and in fact, India’s romance with the sport.

India’s nuclear deal with the US: Karat is playing Indian Marxists’ Great Game with the Great Satan

By John Cheeran
The rump of the Indian revolution, the Indian Left, is playing its Great Game over the nuclear deal with the United States.
Prakash Karat is an honourable man, a rare specimen in contemporary politics, but he is limited by the CPI (M)’s the anti-United States agenda.
Karat and his fellow communists oppose the nuclear deal in the name of national interest. Congress is rooting for it in the name of national interest. Faced with dwindling global oil reserves, the country should embrace alternative energy sources, says Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. And the UPA allies including M Karunanidhi, Lalu Prasad Yadav, Ram Vilas Paswan all buy that line.
But even more pressing national need is to stay in power at the centre. That’s why the UPA allies are urging Ms Sonia Gandhi to exercise caution in case she wants to use the stick against Karat.
The only yogi in the current game seems to be Karat and to certain extent his Left followers. A national election means little worry for CPI (M) and CPI because they have nothing to lose outside of West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura. They might have a diminished presence in the Parliament, but presence, they surely will have.
And one should not ignore the fact that by standing up against the great satan, the United States, Comrade Karat is sending out a clear message to Muslims, who comprise the 18 per cent of Indian population, that here is a new Saladdin to their rescue.
Karat’s stance on the nuclear issue is a dead giveaway that Indian Marxists have abandoned the revolution and now hope to survive riding the regressive sentiments of a besieged segment of the society.
It is great tactics, but awful politics.
Going green was not meant to be like this.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Gulf News Exposed: Again

By John Cheeran
Some guys will never learn.
In Tamil, that great Indian language, you call such gentlemen thirutha mudiyatha kazhuthai (Thi Mu Ka). This colourful phrase’s English version could be ‘Donkeys who could never be improved upon.”
I hate to feast on editorial errors but what Gulf News dishes out in its sport section each day, brings tears to my eyes.
If it is possible to rape a newspaper, then that is what being done right now by a few gentlemen in that newspaper, stripping away the last vestiges of credibility of this broadsheet.
Take today’s (June 23, 2008) Gulf News sport front page.
The lead story of the section opener is edited in an atrocious fashion.
The Gulf News sports journalists could not get the name of the star UAE footballer Ismail Mattar right in the picture caption that accompanies the lead story. A hungry sub-editor swallowed a T from Mattar! The story itself throughout suffers from ill-informed editing.
The third paragraph (see the image on top right) says “The Syrians tool the lead.”
Interesting. Spell check can never be a substitute for your language skills. A bit of attention could have set the tool into ‘took’ and saved the report that details the crucial World Cup qualifier clash between the hosts UAE and Syria.
And that’s not enough. The same sentence finishes by saying “Al Hussain who placed home.”
Placed home, what?
It should have read as placed the ball home. As a journalist, it is hugely embarrassing me for to chronicle the mistakes of a newspaper in this manner.
But does anyone care for the brand equity and credibility of the Gulf News?
Is there anyone in the management (editorial or marketing) of the Gulf News who cares to read his/her own newspaper in the morning?
Or have they all begun to read The National for their news?

June 25, 1983: When India conquered the world (when even wives of the Devils did not keep faith in their husbands)

By John Cheeran
How was the World Cup won by India in 1983?
It seems incredible today to think that a rag tag band of men, with little noteworthy performance in the two previous World Cups, won the supreme championship.
A similar feat was achieved only once in Indian history, and that was in 1947, when Mahatma Gandhi humbled the British Empire through his non-violent methods. Who could have imagined then that Gandhi’s soul force and ahimsa would culminate in freedom for India?
When one thinks of Kapil Dev’s World Cup triumph 25 years since June 25, 1983, Albert Einstein’s words on Gandhi come to mind. Einstein said: "Generations to come, it may be, will scarce believe that such one as this ever in flesh and blood walked upon this earth".
The same words could be said about Kapil Dev and his followers in 1983. It was an otherworldly performance, incredible to fathom, how it all came about. If Gandhi had brought sunset finally to the British Empire, Kapil and boys marked the beginning of the end for the West Indian dominance in world cricket through their soul force, and uninhibited cricket.
In the tumult of celebrations of the silver jubilee of India’s World Cup coronation in 1983, we should not forget the fact that since that day in Lord’s the West Indies have not won another World Cup. They have not even reached the finals since then.
And, now to the main question.
How did Kapil and boys conquer the world?
May be it was simply destiny, as Kapil himself likes to put it.
India’s and world’s leading batsman Sunil Gavaskar’s batting average for the 1983 World Cup was 9.83. May be that was a blessing in disguise for the 23-year-old Indian captain Kapil because Gavaskar, in the inaugural World Cup in 1975, had the dodgy distinction of batting through the 60 overs to remain not out on 36.
Kapil was bold in his decision-making and that can be gauged from the fact that the usurper of the throne of Indian captaincy dropped Gavaskar from two group matches. India promptly lost those matches, and may be as a lucky mascot, Kapil decided to pick the Mumbai stalwart for the remaining encounters.
India went into 1983 World Cup as underdogs. But they had given enough indication that they carried the firepower to shock the best in the business as they upset the prevailing world champions West Indies by 27 runs in a one-day international played a few months ago at Berbice, Guyana. Gavaskar top scored for India with 90 and Kapil, with a blazing 72 off 38 balls, had given India a winning total of 282 from 47 overs, a massive score by the 80’s benchmarks.
Not just that.
India again shocked the West Indies in their first group match and the victory in the final was truly a just reward for their grit and nous.
May be the strongest squad in the whole competition was England and the convincing win in the semi-final should have dispelled the notion that India’s show was a mere flash in the pan.
And to consider that India won the World Cup in a truly Gandhian way!
No lap top, no sport psychologist, no coach, no endorsements, no cheer girls.
In fact during the final at Lord’s when the West Indians began to gallop towards the winning target of 183, thanks to Viv Richards' murderous attack on Madan Lal, Romi Dev, Kapil’s wife, left the ground inconsolably to the sanctuary of the hotel room. Madan’s wife soon joined Romi. And Romi would have the courage to confess to Kapil that she missed that emotional moment when her husband lifted the Prudential trophy only after 12 years. A miss of a lifetime!
So, even Kapil’s Devils’ wives had little faith in them. Forget about the nation!
Kapil’s Devils had none of the modern-day accoutrements that are now deemed necessary for a tournament campaign.
Their biggest weapon might have been an uncluttered mind. There was no unbearable burden of expectation on the shoulders of Kapil. Had they lost in the group stage itself, life would have still remained the same for those cricketers.
But India’s World Cup triumph in 1983 shook not just Indian cricket; it began to alter the contours of world cricket. World Cup was taken out of the hallowed territory of imperial England. Word Cup came home to India in 1987.
New winners emerged. Australia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka.
New concepts followed and culminated in Twenty 20.
And only the blind would fail to spot the footmarks of Lalit Modi and the Indian Premier League, leading up to that of Kapil’s Devils victory strides.
Raise a toast to the Class of 1983.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Asia Cup, a perfect opportunity for Dhoni and boys to honour the Class of 1983

By John Cheeran
No Sachin Tendulkar, no Rahul Dravid, no Sourav Ganguly.
India is going into the Asia Cup in Pakistan without the batting trinity and it is no Twenty 20 championship that is being played in Karachi and Lahore.
This is the new India. Indian cricket has always been dominated by batsmen and with imminent eclipse of the batting trinity, those who are emerging on the horizon should consider themselves extremely lucky.
Well, Yuvraj Singh has been on the scene for a long time but even he has so far struggled to find a place in the Test XI.
Guys such as Rohit Sharma has a unique opportunity to stake his claims for a regular role in the one-day and Test side and for that he needs to come up with some sterling shows in the matches that matter. Read that as games against Pakistan. He should play innings that might pull of a tournament win.
The silver jubilee of India’s refulgent World Cup win in 1983 is being evoked at this juncture (India won the 1983 World Cup on June 25) and winning the Asia Cup would be the perfect way to honour the great feat pulled off by Kapil Dev and his pugnacious band of men.
Skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni has great opportunity and shoulders great responsibility too.
Though he has not been properly anointed as the Test captain, the Indian cricket looks up to him for a sense of direction. M.S.Dhoni is the fresh air that Indian cricket needs now after the miasma of 2007 World Cup.
Luckily for him, seniors in the squad are trying to hang onto the bandwagon, so he should not fear anyone upstaging him, other than his own follies.
It is time for Dhoni to rally his men around, and go for the kill.
Yes, he is on the enemy territory. As Indian skipper Dhoni should know that a defeat in Pakistan matters more than a victory in Pakistan.

All cricketers are idiots; ask Dale Steyn

By John Cheeran
People believe all cricketers are idiots. They are not so, if you go by what South African bowler Dale Steyn said the other day in Durban.
Steyn is the first cricketer to nail the lie that surrounds the Twenty 20 Indian Premier League.
IPL is all about money. We knew it all along. So is all life. So what’s the big deal, and what’s the surprise?
The surprise is that none was wiling to say so.
People talked about how IPL and Twenty20 were redefining cricket, and how given enough time, it would eclipse all other sport in global popularity chart.
Meanwhile someone was finding the busty cheer girls
offensive, and their gyrations obscene. But money was not obscene; it was Lakshmi, and it was quit okay.
Now allow me to quote Steyn on the phenomenon of IPL.
“The IPL was only four overs a game and it was like a paid holiday; you only had to work hard if you felt like it, which is probably why we finished second-last."
More truthful words were never spoken concerning cricket.
Indeed, it was paid holiday for Steyn and other mercenaries from South Africa who added up to make Bangalore Royal Challengers, one of the bottom-rung finishers in the IPL.
(I’m sure the king of good times Vijay Mallya would have told about Steyn’s paid holiday in India.)
Now the thing is that, can’t the truth about IPL be applicable in Fifty 50 one-dayers and in that dowdy Test matches as well?
In Test matches, though it lasts five days, half the time you are sleeping in the dressing room because your side is batting. And while fielding you don’t bowl more than 15 overs in a day. You can go out and relax in the dressing room, if you have the right excuse. Food and beverages are free also.
And what about rain delays and wet outfields?
And after five days you have the honourable option of holding your heads high, though you were completely outplayed, thanks to the draw.
So the paid holiday works there as well.
But what saddens me is that Steyn eventually chose to plead idiocy and take back his truthful words, brainwashed by some public relations experts.
Truth is bad for cricket, the PR guys have convinced
the callow South African fast bowler.
So Steyn returned to where he started.
“I am an idiot,” says Steyn.
Yes, we know, poor South African boy.
All cricketers are idiots.
And what about those who watched the IPL matches?
I can’t wait for the second edition of the Lalit Modi show.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Doosra: Mohammed Asif walks free in Dubai

By John Cheeran
Finally what has been a wild guess turned out to be true in the end.
Pakistan fast bowler Mohammed Asif finally walked free, marking the end of his detention by authorities in Dubai since June 1 for the illegal possession of opium.
The Pakistan bowler will be spared the legal rigmarole in Dubai as the Dubai authorities are keen to get rid of the guy, and will deport the errant youngster to his home country as early as possible.
This is not the first time justice has taken such sudden turns, much like a doosra that cricket is familiar with.
Enjoy your second innings, Asif.
And as soon as you reach Pakistan take another long, hard look at your wallet before throwing it away.
Kuda Hafiz!

'Quiet' an achievement: Classic howlers in Dubai journalism

By John Cheeran
This surely must rank as one of the classic howlers in journalism. A sub-editor who does not know his English, despite having formally studied it, and dumb enough not to rely on a dictionary in sheer arrogance or ineptitude, plunges the newspaper’s brand equity to new depths.
When Sachin Tendulkar celebrated his birthday on April 25, 2006, the Dubai-based Gulf News newspaper decided to gatecrash the party with a lead headline that said volumes about the illiterate journalism that it does in the Middle East. See the image on top right. The sub-editor who wrote the headline, apparently, is unaware of the world of difference in meaning between ‘quiet and quite.’ And quietly the headline went all the way to press, to be a living proof of the quality of journalism that the newspaper practises.
Well, as the Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky observed “everyone has a right to be stupid, but one should not abuse that right.”
If only such gentlemen journalists could heed Trotsky’s wisdom!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Emirates airline: Go, get wet in Kozhikode (Kerala)!

By John Cheeran
When you think of Kerala in June, what’s it that comes to your mind?
The Dubai-based Emirates airline has announced its third flight from Dubai to Kerala, to Kozhikode, after Cochin and Thiruvananthapuram.
And the print ad that announced the Emirates flight had three Kathakali veshangal (actors) to get across the message to prospective fliers.
Kathakali? Miens of Kathakali actors, of course, make for arresting visuals, but that is a clichéd advertising strategy.
Kathakali is far removed from the heart of Kerala. In contemporary Kerala, Kathakali exists only as a fantasy about a bygone era. It is a tragedy of advertising that the creative heads cannot come up with anything original that’s related to Kerala.
But is that really difficult?
As I tried to say in the beginning, this is the time of thunder and lightning in Kerala. Guys take an idea shower!
You go to Kerala in June to chase monsoon.
You could have better pitched the Emirates campaign with a slogan ‘Go, get wet in Kozhikode.’
That would have been a perfect lure for a Dubai crowd that is getting slowly stewed as temperatures rise in the desert city.
If you ask the passengers, who will eventually board the new Emirates flight to Kozhikode, have they seen at least one Kathakali in their lifetime, the answer would be a resounding no.
And, this advertisement, then amounts to, that classic admonition to man, woman and child who are brave enough to watch Kathakali.
Kathayariyathe aattam kanaruthu.
Don’t watch the kali (play), without knowing the katha (story).

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Is Mohammed Asif grappling with mystical forces in Dubai?

By John Cheeran
Now where is Mohammed Asif, the Pakistan fast bowler, who was stumped at the Dubai International Airport for allegedly possessing some illegal substance?
I have been eagerly reading Gulf News for update on Asif, especially after the newspaper sentenced the rookie bowler to grapple with mystical forces for his ‘crime’.
But it is Indian newspapers and wire agencies who are ferreting out information on the bowler’s status.
Gulf News, being a Dubai newspaper, and if reporters and editors there have any remains of pride to call themselves journalists, should be bringing us news on Asif’s plight rather than indulging in pathetic commentary.
A gloating advertisement for the newspaper says its journalists are exploring every lead to bring you a top quality paper. They are committed every minute to quality, claims the ad.
If that be so these guys should be breaking news rather than living on wire services. And consider, this is happening right at their doorsteps.
The mere fact that Asif has been detained by Dubai authorities since June 1 and will go on trial only on June 22 speaks a lot about the case.
Have we heard about 'justice delayed is justice denied'?
This, really, is a classic opportunity for a local newspaper to dig deep and identify a deep throat, and break fresh ground on the subject instead of wallowing in lazy and unintelligible assertions.
Or is it that the Gulf News commentator, who had a revelation about ‘mystical forces’, is busy stripping the Pakistani bowler of his influence in detention?
Come on guys, live up to your masthead. Give us some news.
You can save the earth a little later.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Raleng: a shooting star in Indian football

By John Cheeran
The recently held India’s national football championship for Santosh Trophy was all about a small player. The twenty-year old Manipuri striker Sochungmi Raleng scored 13 goals in the tournament and won the man of the tournament award, but his team, Services, could not bring down the fort of Punjab in the final played in Srinagar.
Services lost by a solitary goal. Punjab, who had 11 players from a professional club called JCT Phagwara, frustrated Raleng and company extremely and won thanks to their no-nonsense approach.
But the point is that Services and Raleng had done enough in the tournament to deserve the attention of Indian football watchers. Services had scored convincing and crushing wins over the eventual champions Punjab, former champions Bengal and Kerala, mainly relying on the goal-poaching abilities of Raleng.
Srinagar may be the end of the road for Services as a football team, but the journey for Raleng, the footballer, has only begun.
And with Indian national team going down to Maldives in the final of the SAFF championship, new thinkers on their feet are most welcome on the maidan.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Youngistan and perils of losing to Pakistan on cricket field

By John Cheeran
Now that India has lost to Pakistan in the final of Kitply Cup by 25 runs we can all forget that limbering up in Mirpur, and now look forward to another round of skirmishes. Yes. Asia Cup is beckoning us in Pakistan.
As I had noted in an earlier post, reactions to the outcome of India-Pakistan cricket clashes are lacking the frisson of yesteryears. So, as the case was in India’s group stage victory and now the loss in the final, not many are bloody bothered.
Have we grown up as a nation of cricket watchers? I honestly do not suspect such transformation, though; definitely we are on the road to such a destination. In the first place you cannot jazz up anything that’s happening in Bangladesh. It was pretty much evident from the fact that not many Indian cricket reporters were keen to go to Mirpur, not even Dhaka, you see, in the first place.
After the ecstasy of the Indian Premier League (IPL) who cares for the plywood of Kitply Cup?
As in any sport, occasion does matter in cricket too. Kitply Cup turned out to be something quite similar to the exercise once we had in the Commonwealth Games cricket championship. It fizzled out to the relief of everyone involved in that, including Mr. Suresh Kalmadi.
But in all these, in victory and defeat, India’s captain and hero of our fleeting times, Mahendra Singh Dhoni should heed the lessons of Mirpur.
You should win, when it matters. Dhoni and the youngsters are, of course, unencumbered with the baggage of history when it comes to Pakistan. They are not a generation who were traumatized by the last ball-six by Javed Miandad off Chetan Sharma in the Australasia Cup final played in Sharjah. They were too young to be hit by that sixer.
Today a loss in a final against Pakistan does not lead to the burning of Dhoni’s house in Ranchi. Despite the defeat to Pakistan in the final in Mirpur, not a stone was cast at any homes of the cricketers.
But there is a threshold in the mind of an average Indian cricket fan. Sooner or later he or she will demand more. A nation’s woes that have been aggravated by rising oil price, and raging inflation, will forgive you only up to a point. So that only means losing to Pakistan in Pakistan during the Asia Cup will be asking for trouble. And by that time the pleasant distraction of the Euro Championship will be almost over.
Summer will be harsher. Pepsi sales will (or, ought to) soar. So Dhoni, representing the apolitical Youngistan, will have to drink deep from the pool of lost opportunities.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Pulijanmam; a tiger's life for Priyanandanan

By John Cheeran
As Kerala’s so called successful film directors are involved in a fratricidal fight comes the news of director Priyanandanan’s Pulijanmam, based on a play by N Prabhakaran, winning the 54th national (Indian) award for the best film for the year of 2006.
Priyanandanan and I belong to the same district, Thrissur, in Kerala. But unfortunately not being at home and always on the lookout for my next job, I never had an opportunity to have a chat with the guy or watch his two critically acclaimed feature films so far – Neithukaran (Weaver) and Pulijanmam (A tiger’s fate).
Like me, many must be regretting their failure to watch Kaari Gurukkal and Prakashan in roles that are a rare blend of myth and reality.
Murali won the national award for best actor for his role in Neithukaran, and the movie fetched many awards including the state award for best debut director, runner-up best actor (female) and three international awards for best director, best film and best actor.
The fact that Pulijanmam did not win any awards at the 2006 Kerala State Film awards but went on to receive national recognition might be really heartening for Priyanandanan. And this has happened on a number of occasions within the Malayalam film industry.
The national jury, led by Buddhadeb Dasgupta, deserves some praise for having the nous to appreciate Pulijanmam.
I’m so much happy for Priyanandanan, whose travails are evocatively reported by my friend PI Rajeev in the Indian Express on June 11. ( Thrissur, the other day, Priyanandanan has talked about the humiliations he underwent while directing the movie, and later for getting theatres to show Pulijanmam.
I, however, have one question for Priyanandanan.
As a director, how does he feel about, the jury’s decision to give the best film award for Pulijanmam and best director’s award for someone else, in this case, to Madhu Bandarkar?
For one thing I’m certain. The award will force many of us to watch this director’s efforts in the future.
And with M.G. Sasi and Priyanandanan winning accolades, pushing stalwarts such as Adoor Gopalakrishnan and K.P. Kumaran into far corners, Malayalam films might be on the cusp of a new awakening.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

India thump Pakistan in Kitply Cup: Is it a new phase in India-Pakistan cricket clashes?

By John Cheeran
India recorded its biggest fifty-fifty international victory (by a margin of 140 runs) against neighbours Pakistan on Tuesday and it seems none seems bothered. At least, in India. The venue was Mirpur in Bangladesh and that makes the fratricide within the subcontinent complete. I remember another high scoring match played in Bangladesh at the end of the 90s when chasing Pakistan’s 300-plus score, India won thanks to a last over boundary by Hrishikesh Kanitkar. We all thought that was a memorable win.
On Tuesday, June 10, 2008, India scored 330 and won with astonishing ease employing what Times of India called a second line of attack which is quite true. And as statisticians point out, India stopped Pakistan’s 11-game (or is it 12?) winning streak orchestrated under an Aussie coach, Geoff Lawson.
But why the nation has stopped paying much attention? What should have been termed a historic (that is, if you go by the size of the victory margin, India beat Pakistan by 140 runs in its first match of Kitplay Cup) victory was not even mentioned by The Times of India in its front page except for a blurb.
The DNA did not gloat either, though to play it safe, it had a picture from Mirpur on its front page. Even in its sport page, Euro 2008 had taken more space than the crushing win over brothers-turned-enemies.
Even abroad, where patriotism is usually at fever pitch than at home, there was an surprising lack of interest in India’s match against Pakistan in Kitplay Cup. In places such as Dubai, Sharjah and Abu Dhabi where a vast majority from Pakistan and India work shoulder to shoulder, they forgot that such a match is on. The fervor was terribly lacking not only on the day of the match, on the day after too.
The Indian Premier League (IPL) had triggered more passion and the ongoing Euro 2008 has killed of whatever residue interest is left for the Indo-Pak rivalry. No wonder then that Pakistani all rounder Shahid Afridi bemoaned in the Times of India the lack of frisson going into a match with India, for the first time in his living memory.
It is not just Euro 2008 and the IPL that has taken the sting out of the rivalry between India and Pakistan. Too many matches between India and Pakistan have killed the flow of adrenalin on both sides of border and we have finally entered the land of boredom.
And just after the Kitplay Cup, the Asia Cup starts on June 24, again among the same set of teams, plus Sri Lanka. At one level, as the boy discovers the girl, and all passion is spent, this return to normalcy on cricket pitch is highly welcome. May be in another few years, the result of a cricket match between India and Pakistan will lack all news value in much the same fashion as a match between Indian footballers and Pakistan footballers these days. Or for that matter, who knows when did India play Pakistan on the hockey field, and again, who won the match?
Trend spotters would be eager to jump in and say that the Indian Premier League, where all most all of the city-centric Indian clubs had employed a large number of Australians and Pakistani players, has contributed in blunting the edge of the patriotism knife.
Quite possible. When the Kolkata crowd, which had stoned Pakistan fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar for obstructing Sachin Tendulkar’s path to contribute to his run out, and disrupted the Asian Test Championship match in a fit of patriotism, begins to hail the same bowler as a hero in the Indian Premier League, there should be a shift in attitude. May be, just may be.

A joyless Santosh Trophy for Kerala

By John Cheeran
To many, Kerala’s exit from 62nd Santosh Trophy football championship in the quarterfinal league comes as a heart-rending moment. Former champions, and a team that has managed to be in the semifinal for the last 10 years, should have given you some hope till the final whistle.
I, however, was prepared for this betrayal of promise, especially after watching Kerala’s second quarterfinal league match against Services at the Bakashi Stadium in Srinagar. Only a day earlier, Kerala began on a promising note against hosts Jammu Kashmir scoring a 3-1 win. But against Services, coach Victor Manjila’s players came out clueless and lost 0-3 in a second half barrage.
I wondered, during the game against Services, how a side that plays so badly could nurse aspirations of winning the title. It was not that S Raleng’s splendid goal-poaching skills cut through Kerala defence and enabling the Services striker to score a hat-trick. Kerala just did not play football and did not deserve to win.
The story was repeated against defending champions on Monday. The first half was goalless and in the second half, Punjab pumped in five goals as if they were part of a firing squad led by the irrepressible KPS Gill at the height of Khalistan demand.
Kerala footballers did not put their key opposition – both Services and Punjab – under pressure. How do you put rivals under pressure? By looking to score goals and creating a winning position. You do that by making optimal use of the space, not by becoming part of the confusion in the penalty box, a task in which Kerala players totally failed. May be coach Victor Manjila and assistant coach Premnath Philip should take some responsibility for that.
Of course, Kerala Santosh Trophy players would reel out excuses such as weather and alien conditions in Srinagar, but as footballers, with ball at their feet, they should have felt at home anywhere in the world. Services looked the best organized team in the quarterfinal stage and they way they shocked champions Punjab in the first match hints that, there will be some roadblocks ahead of West Bengal and Karnataka, who upstaged Goa to reach semis, in their title quest.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Euro 2008: Gulf News dethrones Italy as world champions

By John Cheeran
Welcome to Gulf News Spo(r)t the Mistake series again. Everyone is rocking on Euro 2008 and today’s edition of Gulf News (June 10) has dethroned Italy as world champions and anointed France as the new football champions!
Not because of Holland thrashed Italians 3-0, but Romania held France to a goalless draw.
The lead story in the front page of the sport section has a picture from the France- Romania group match. Please read the caption. It says the defending champions have an uphill task in Group of Death after a goalless draw.
Interesting, right? Since the caption says ‘after a goalless draw,’ Gulf News must be referring only to the France –Romania match. In fact this was the first goalless match of the Euro 2008. So when did the replay of World Cup football final happen? I thought Italy are the world champions of football. When Gulf News says ‘defending world champions’, are they referring to defending Euro champions Greece? No way. What’s Greece doing in the match between France and Romania?
So once again Gulf News has blundered by referring to France as ‘defending world champions.” I’m sure France coach Raymond Domenech must be happy to read Gulf News in Zurich today.
Yes, I will tell you how it happened. France and Italy have same colour of jerseys. Blue. So there are quite a few colour blind gentlemen out there who are confused to differentiate between shades of colour, and of course, meaning.

Monday, June 09, 2008

When mystical forces blow through Mohammed Asif's wallet in Dubai

By John Cheeran
It is quite amusing that Gulf News, a newspaper published from Dubai, has woken up from its slumber by carrying a comment piece in its sport pages on June 9, 2008, a week after Pakistan fast bowler Mohammed Asif was detained at the Dubai International Airport for allegedly possessing an illegal substance.
And what a piece of juvenile journalism it has turned out to be!
The verdict from Dubai Courts is yet to arrive and Pakistan Cricket Board has diligently maintained that Asif will be presumed innocent until authorities prove him guilty. That’s natural justice, by any reckoning.
But Gulf News on June 9, by carrying a signed comment piece, has jumped the gun and proclaimed Asif was caught with drugs.
What proof the Gulf News commentator has to write so?
Let me quote from that piece. “But with his latest transgression of getting caught with drugs on his person he may have sold out to the mystical forces.”
My God! What does the writer mean by ‘drugs on his person’? Where has he learnt his English from? All along the wire agencies said that a substance was found in Asif’s wallet. And to use a generic word such as drug, in this instance, is outright lazy and unpardonable journalism.
And come on, how on earth you can write that by “getting caught with drug on his person” becomes selling out to the mystical forces?
First let someone enlighten the Gulf News writer on what mystical forces mean. Is selling out to mystical forces something bad? I don’t think so. Many mystics have done it and instead of condemning, we revere them.
It is quite true that juvenile and amateurish writers take refuge in grandiose words such as ‘mystical forces’ to sell their point. Choose your words carefully. Trafficking in ideas needs not glib words but education and willingness to learn, two qualities the Gulf News writer sorely lacks.
And when did smoking a joint become such a precarious issue, a fight between good and evil?
And mind you, the GN guy in his desperation to sound intellectual is trying to elevate a 25-year-old gawky athlete to Christopher Marlowe’s Dr Faustus.
And will you please tell me what rewards Asif stood to get through “his apprenticeship with this powerful moral force”?
A brand ambassadorship from Afghan poppy farmers?
So who is naïve? Asif, or the juvenile journalist?
Leave all that alone. I suggest that Gulf News writer should refrain from inflicting mixed metaphors on his readers. Again allow me to quote from the writer’s masterpiece. “The graveyard of international cricket is littered with many tales similar to that of Asif’s.”
Aha. How many graveyards have you seen that are littered with tales? Corpses, yes. Skeletons, yes.
But tales?
Come on, mate. You need to develop yourself. And I don’t know how many chances you have been given by life.

(Click on the below links to get a better understanding of the quality of journalism in Dubai)

Gulf News carries on with Spo(r)t the Mistake contest

By John Cheeran
Here is another example of excellence from the Middle East journalism. The market leader Gulf News has been running a long-term Spot the Mistake campaign for its readers. Here is the latest in the series.
Quite fittingly the editors have chosen a most important story to display their unfamiliarity with English language.
It's an AFP story and still Gulf News editors can't differentiate between it's and its. And look at the caption. The photo credit goes as 'dummy''.
So much attention to the detail is simply captivating!
Read it for yourself mates!

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Mohammed Afzal: just listen to the footfalls of the executioner

By John Cheeran
I don’t understand why Mohammed Afzal ‘Guru’ is concerned and confused regarding his future.
Apparently he has given an interview to a wire agency in New Delhi that could be termed a PR coup, by criticizing the UPA government for not cancelling the death sentence on him, delivered by the Supreme Court in 2004.
Afzal finds Tihar Jail a hell and wants to have a decision either way quickly. Afzal Guru tries to put political pressure on UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh through his interview by castigating their ineptitude to make a decision. That is not let him escape from the clutches of gallows.
And interestingly, advised by a spin doctor, he wants L K Advani as Prime Minister, so that the torturer can have a swift decision.
Well, If Mohammad Afzal wanted a quick decision on his life, he should remember that the Supreme Court gave it in 2004 and upheld it in 2005.
There was no dilly-dallying on decision making. Instead of sounding a martyr, Afzal should withdraw the mercy petition filed on his behalf. He should accept the legal terms of India and rest easy.
Every man should seek his own destiny.
Why did Afzal ask for President’s mercy in the first place? Remember Mohammad Afzal has been sentenced for death not for stealing apple from the parliament courtyard. I wish the jholawallahs too remember this.
It is time you withdrew your mercy petition and began the early morning walk to the gallows.
It is quite simple, Afzal. Simpler than your plans to slaughter the Indians.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Oil crisis: How about Rahul Bajaj for Indian Prime Minister?

By John Cheeran
How about Rahul Bajaj for Indian Prime Minister?
The Indian automaker has welcomed the hike in petrol and diesel prices for all the right reasons. On Wednesday he told a television channel that though the sales of his company’s products, mainly Bajaj scooters and bikes, will be hurt as direct result of fuel price rise, in the interest of the nation and the future generations to come we should accept the rising costs.
Yes, I agree, when Bajaj says that money to buy crude oil for Indian refineries will not drop from heaven. It has to be found among the direct users of petrol and diesel, at a time when the price of crude oil per barrel has touched $130, and if you can trust Goldman Sachs’ Arjun Murty’s forecast, it will touch $200 mark before the year turns over.
Bajaj is a member of the Parliament. But he does not belong to any political party. He has no constituency to lose, so unlike our populist politicians, Bajaj can speak his mind, even though it is for the good of the nation.
Don't you think that Bajaj should replace Manmohan Singh as Prime Minister?
BJP wants the federal government to cut duties and keep the prices where they are to shield the common man from the cascading effect of fuel price hike. It is easier said than done, where will the government rise funds for its social outlay?

Simple fact is that, when it rains, as it did in Delhi yesterday night, it is difficult not to get drenched despite your umbrellas. Tough times are upon us.

Different and diverse ideas are needed to tackle the energy crisis. India should search for alternative energy sources. The United States is experimenting with corn ethanol, a move which has been widely blamed for pushing the global food prices up.

That perceptive columnist Roger Cohen has written in today’s New York Times about a better experiment—Brazil’s sugar ethanol.
Allow me to quote Mr Cohen.
“Some 35 years after the first oil shock, Brazil has moved from dependence on imports to self-sufficiency while the United States still relies on imported oil for more than half its needs. In the same period, Brazil has developed the world’s most advanced ethanol program, based on sugar cane, while the U.S. corn ethanol program is essentially a wasteful folly of dubious carbon offset merits….
Sugar cane is not a staple. It’s eight times more productive than corn. It grows year round. It must be processed fast, so CO2-spewing transport to distant ethanol plants is impossible (unlike for corn).
Its leftover biomass can be used to produce electricity, enough, by some estimates, to provide a third of Brazil’s power needs by 2030. Ethanol already accounts for about 50 percent of car fuel in Brazil. The vast extent of unused arable land — only 16 percent is cultivated — offers enormous scope. At $40 per barrel-of-oil-equivalent in Brazil, sugar-cane ethanol makes strategic and economic sense.”
I hope Mr Sharad Pawar, India’s Minister for Agriculture and sugar baron, will take the lead in India to develop sugar cane ethanol.
We need initiatives such sugar cane ethanol, at least till such time, when Mr Bajaj or Mr Ratan Tata comes up with vehicles that run on love and fresh air!

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Spin doctor blames IPL for Asif's plight

By John Cheeran
Last night I watched in amazement a panelist who popped up in Times Now, an Indian news channel, coming up with a doosra in the defence of Mohammad Asif, the Pakistan fast bowler getting stewed by the police in Dubai.
The panelist, who had recently castigated the Indian media over ‘its deathly silence’ on the cronyism and deleterious effects Indian Premier League will have on national team through injuries, was again blaming the IPL for Asif’s plight.
In an astounding PR exercise for Pakistan Cricket Board, he went on to say that Asif went to Dubai soon after the IPL party in Mumbai and he was saying that all sorts of party drugs were being used in such occasions (IPL party).
The panelist almost said that the substance that landed Asif in trouble in Dubai could have been put in the bowler’s wallet by none other than IPL’s Lalit Modi. This was spin at its best.
So fault lies not with Mohammad Asif but with Indian Premier League and the party culture spread by it!
There are no grand designs or hidden agenda in this episode.
Trying to take a different stand, some times can push people to such ludicrous corners.
Asif was stupid enough to flirt with drugs. It was still stupid of the bowler to pretend that ‘who put it there?’
And it is pathetic to find that there are panelists eager to act as the conscience of such blundering cricketers.
Such bleeding hearts!
May be he should apply for the post of advisor to Pakistan Cricket Board.
Keep yapping!

Mohammad Asif: the suspense continues

By John Cheeran
The suspense over the substance grows in the desert. On Tuesday it was leaked to the media that Pakistan fast bowler Mohammad Asif was detained at the Dubai International Airport for the last 36 overs. Another 24 hours have gone, but the verdict on the nature of substance found in Asif’s wallet, whether it is a sweetener or hashish or nandrolone, is not yet out.
The longer it takes, the clearer it becomes that Asif will be allowed to wriggle out of the rigors of the law.
Considering the clout the Pakistan government and General Pervez Musharaff enjoys in the UAE, it is quite likely that Asif will be pardoned sooner or later.
The delay is worth waiting for the Pakistan Cricket Board, as it is only part of paving the way for a pardon for errant, young, foolish fellow.

Food for thought in Rome

By John Cheeran
In Rome, the United Nations is having a thought summit on the global food crisis.
The intention is very good. But solution is straightforward and simple. Plant more crops; grow more food to meet the rising demand. Prepare the land for it.
It should not have taken a summit with a budget of whatever dollars to tell world about this.
Inviting the likes of Ahmadinejad and Robert Mugabe, and watch they push their agendas at the cost of the starving millions, is not the best way the FAO and the UN should treat the crisis.
And going by the report in The Guardian, there is no food crisis in Rome. Sausage is going for two pence which is an indication of plenty.
And what about all of us eating less and importing stuff from places near to us, as a start to the campaign against rising price of food?

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Mohammad Asif: caught in Dubai, bowled by PCB

By John Cheeran
There is nothing shocking about an athlete being caught with illegal drugs in his bag at an international airport.
Mohammad Asif is not the first cricketer to have been tempted by drugs. Many stupid people have been caught in situations similar to that of Asif’s. And cricket is no longer a gentleman’s game.
This man- Asif- has a history of substance abuse and two years ago was banned from the game for using nandrolone.
Asif and Shoaib Akhtar, tested positive in an internal dope test conducted by the Pakistan board in October 2006. Asif was initially banned for one year, though the ban was overturned on appeal a month later.
What, however, is disgusting is that International Cricket Council has lost its face at a place where it has set up its headquarters. And Dubai’s zero-tolerance to drugs is well known.
Asif has let down his faith, which must have shaped him as a man, and his practice, the game which has raised him from the grime of daily life in an average Pakistan street.
Much of the blame lies with Pakistan Cricket Board. It has consistently refused to look facts in their face. Even today, Nadeem Akram, a PCB official, desperately defended the bowler by saying the substance that has landed Asif in trouble was a small bit of powder, given by a hakeem, a traditional Islamic healer, five-six months ago in Dubai.
It is really interesting that Indian narcotics authorities did not find this bit of white powder in Asif’s wallet, which PCB claims to have been with the bowler for the last six months, when he went to India to play in the IPL.
What Asif Mohammad needs is help; help to kick the habit.
Not some sloppy defence from the PCB.
And by defending in such a crude manner the PCB is helping neither the bowler nor the game.

Xerox Media and Mohammad Asif!

By John Cheeran
Journalism is great, and online journalism is greater.
One should call journalism of this age, and especially in the Middle East, Xerox Media, for its tendency to whore the news agency copies.
As wire agencies broke the news of Pakistan fast bowler Mohammad Asif arrested at Dubai airport on charges of possessing illegal drugs, what do the Dubai-based newspapers do? Just xerox the story and simply put By A Staff Reporter.
That’s what Khaleej Times’s online edition proudly did, grabbing the AFP story and giving some value addition by adding By a staff reporter!. (

Gulf News' online edition fell back on Reuters to run the item.
And news had to flow from Lahore; not from Dubai where things were happening.
Hard work, one must say!

Read the AFP copy here
Pakistan's cricketer Asif arrested in Dubai on drugs charges
2 hours ago
LAHORE, Pakistan (AFP) — Pakistani fast bowler Mohammad Asif has been arrested at Dubai airport on charges of possessing illegal drugs, cricket officials said Tuesday.
The 25-year-old Asif was seized while returning home from India after featuring in a domestic event that ended on Sunday, a Pakistan Cricket Board official said on condition of anonymity.
"Yes, we can confirm about Asif's arrest. He was stopped at Dubai airport on charges of carrying opium and was supposed to be brought before the magistrate on Tuesday," the official said.
The PCB would brief the media about the situation later on Tuesday, he said.
"We have few details so we are gathering more and as soon as we get them we will brief the media. As far as we know he flew out of Bombay on Sunday morning and was detained at Dubai airport," said the official.
PCB human resources director Nadeem Akram is in Dubai and has also hired a lawyer to assist Asif, the official said.
Reports from Dubai said the local police have conducted several tests on Asif and would bring him before the magistrate later Tuesday.
The arrest is just the latest controversy to hit Pakistan's troubled cricket team over the past two years.
Asif was banned for one year after he tested positive for the steroid nandrolone in October 2006. Fellow paceman Shoaib Akhtar was banned for two years on the same charge.
The bans were however lifted on appeal two months later.
Akhtar meanwhile is appealing a lifetime ban imposed in April for repeated disciplinary problems.

Jhumpa Lahiri, Unaccustomed Earth and An Unaccustomed Reader

By John Cheeran
Jhumpa Lahiri is in the news again after the publication of her Unaccustomed Earth, a new collection of stories. I read the other day the review of the book, or, more a review on author, in Time magazine while browsing at an airport bookstore.
The buzz is that she has been hailed as an American author with a distinct voice, though her style is less baroque, and almost plain.
Left to myself, I’m not greatly enthused by what Lahiri tells through her stories or by her writing itself. I haven’t read the Unaccustomed Earth, but I have read an earlier collection of stories, The Interpreter of Maladies, and the novel, The Namesake.
Both those efforts left me untouched. The point is that for an average North American critic and reader, the Bengali and Indian social preoccupations may hold novel value but for a wearied Indian such as me such stuff brings only waves of yawn.
Many count Lahiri’s limitations as her advantage such as the shut doors and world she describes, and her plain style.
I have wondered how on earth anyone could write such contrived drivel as the Namesake and still get published by any self-respecting imprint.
And what does the Namesake really speaks about?
The immigrant experience?
Had Lahiri wanted to tackle immigrant experience in the West or in the North America, she should have moved away from the elitist Indian experience and ventured to see searing, more vivid immigrant tales rather than the set up dates and the art of frying samosas. I looked for the spirit that leavens any life, leave alone the immigrant life, in the Namesake, but couldn’t find it.
What Lahiri has to say and write is nothing but comparing and exchanging family notes. And surprise is that there is a huge market for such stuff. Apparently Jhumpa has done some research.
And before I began to write this post, I had come across an interview with her in the Atlantic Magazine. There I found Jhumpa Lahiri rationalizing her plain style. Allow me to quote her from that interview
“I like it to be plain. It appeals to me more. There's form and there's function and I have never been a fan of just form. My husband and I always have this argument because we go shopping for furniture and he always looks at chairs that are spectacular and beautiful and unusual, and I never want to get a chair if it isn't comfortable. I don't want to sit around and have my language just be beautiful. If you read Nabokov, who I love, the language is beautiful but it also makes the story and is an integral part of the story. Even now in my own work, I just want to get it less—get it plainer. When I rework things I try to get it as simple as I can. “

Well, it seems I will remain an Unaccustomed Reader for some time to come.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Chak de IPL!: Owner's Pride in Indian Premier League

By John Cheeran
Now without Googling, can you tell me who owns the Rajasthan Royals?
Or for that matter who owns the Chennai Super Kings?
Answers are slow to come forth, I guess.
Compared to Vijay Mallyas, Preity Zintas and Shah Rukh Khans of the Indian Premier League franchise world, these owners (Chennai and Rajasthan) are less visible and that may have contributed to their teams’ invincible streak in the IPL.
Rajasthan Royals, incidentally, are owned by Emerging Media under Lachlan Murdoch and Suresh Chellaram. Have you seen these guys on television during the IPL or basking in the glory of Shane Warne, Swapnil Asnodkar, Yousuf Pathan and Shane Watson?
No, right?
And what about Chennai Super Kings?
Yes, N. Srinivasan is the treasurer of the BCCI and he also runs the Chennai-based firm India Cements. Srinivasan is the vice-chairman and managing director of India Cements.
Srinivasan, though having close links with the BCCI, never flaunted his position and proved the cultural contrast between an austere Chennai and a brash Bangalore.
Murdoch and Srinivasan treated their players in a professional manner and gave them the freedom to think cricket instead of jumping themselves on the attention bandwagon. Such management ethics are ideal in any environment; whether you are producing cement or running a cricket franchise.
The inaugural IPL has proved that Twenty 20 is not driven by gimmicks. No sloganeering or cheer leading could influence the outcome of a cricket match. Had it been so, the IPL final should have been played between Shah Rukh Khan’s Kolkata Knight Riders and Preity Zinta’s King’s XI Punjab.
And for all his love of cricket where was SRK on the night of IPL final?
At least television screens did not show his face; neither that of Preity Zinta.
It was a pity that the man who flew to Johannesburg to cheer the Indian team during the Twenty20 World Cup final against Pakistan stayed away from the Dr Patil Stadium in Navi Mumbai.
How lucky we are that Aamir Khan did not buy the IPL franchise rights and name the side Lagaan!
Chak De IPL!

Patriotism takes a huge beating in IPL. Mind it, rascals!

By John Cheeran
The best team won the inaugural Indian Premier League trophy. Rajasthan Royals had creditable displays throughout the league phase though they almost conceded their last league game to Kings XI Punjab.
Rajasthan’s victory is tribute to team spirit and hard work. They did not have huge stars but an astute Shane Warne melded an outfit through his no-nonsense approach.
On Sunday, during the final, the intensity that Warne brought to the field to contain the good start of Chennai Super Kings was astounding. Warne never let the pressure ease and even though Chennai batsmen had the advantage in the first 10 overs of their innings, Royals won the game in the latter half.
And what a star turn Yousuf Pathan did in the final. A three-wicket spell from the spinner never allowed Chennai to shift gears. By snaring two wickets in one over on a day when his captain went wicket-less was a performance any skipper would have been proud of from his teammates.
Pathan did the hit parade while chasing the 164 runs needed for the title. Yes, Yousuf had a bit of luck. He was dropped in the first over of Muttaiah Muralitharan while the batsman on 13, and had that catch was taken the outcome of the match would have been different as Chennai bowlers began to tighten their lien and length. Yousuf, however, was undeterred and still enjoyed big strikes, getting two more lives in the process.
It was not just Pathan. Both Rajasthan and Chennai had their players working hard and if there was a blemish it was some sloppy fielding from the Super Kings. May be the pressure finally got to them. A better fielding show would have made things a lot tougher for Rajasthan.
But I hope the subliminal message in all this would not get lost in Indian cricket. Look, what an Aussie could actually achieve with an Indian side with low level egos. Yes, Greg Chappell tried and failed but was eagerly picked up by Lalit Modi’s Jaipur Cricket Association.
Modi again persuaded Warne to do the dual role of skipper and coach with Rajasthan Royals and how the naughty Aussie has succeeded.
A streamlined approach always helps in executing your plans and realizing your goals. With Warne not having to contend with a captain with quite a different set of ideas, Rajasthan stayed focused on their task – giving it all.
Just consider that most of the IPL teams boasted of Indian icons, but all of them failed in their quest for glory. Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly and Sachin Tendulkar, despite support from cash-rich franchises, could not make the cut into the semifinals.
Yes, patriotism has taken a huge beating in the IPL, I must say. Not even the Twenty20 World Champion, Mahendra Singh Dhoni could prove the difference.
Mind it, you rascal!

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Twists and turns of Twenty 20

By John Cheeran
It was feared that Twenty 20 was all about getting your call right on the given hour. Twenty20 is unpredictable in nature we believed. But in the end planning and consistency and hard work have triumphed over mere instinct.
Once you get a knockout punch, it is tough to be back on your feet, they say. At least that’s what fallen captain Yuvraj Singh said the other day.
But you can ignore basic skills such as clean hitting, daring on the field only at your peril. Ability to think on your feet is what needed for success in Twenty20.
Tonight we will find out who has that in abundance as Shane Warne and Mahendra Singh Dhoni lead their sides in the IPL final.
Now over to twists and turns. Over to Twenty 20!

IPL semifinals cough up deserving winners

By John Cheeran
Not many were mourning the King’s XI Punjab at Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai, on Saturday night. For Yuvraj Singh’s men did nothing to raise a challenge to Chennai Super Kings in the semifinal of the Indian Premier League.

So both semifinals of the IPL have been disappointments when you are looking at them, in terms of the thrill quotient. No last over dramas, no palpitations.

It is remarkable that bowlers players such a key role in both semifinals. Three early wickets snatched by Shane Watson rattled the rhythm of Delhi Daredevils and they never threatened the near 200 winning target posted by Rajasthan Royals.

And on Saturday there was no contest as Makhya Ntini blew out the Kings XI which largely depended on Australian and Sri Lankan stars. All of them, including Shaun Marsh and Sangakara failed on the day. And their failure was accentuated by the ease with which Parthiv Patel and Suresh controlled the business of getting runs in the middle. So it was all about getting the balance between the urge to thrill the crowd and picking the right balls for the big heave. Not mere brawn is not enough, as once again Punjab learnt to their chagrin.

As they say, you win some, you lose some.

Thank you all the same Kings and Queens.
John Cheeran at Blogged