Wednesday, January 29, 2014

You Can Win Now: Bloomsbury India brings Shiv Khera on board

New Delhi: Help yourself. Bloomsbury India has cut a deal with renowned author Shiv Khera to publish all his books, including the bestsellers You Can Win and You Can Sell.
New editions of You Can Win and You Can Sell were launched on January 10. Bloomsbury India will also re-launch Khera’s Living With Honour and Freedom Is Not Free. These books will be published in English, Hindi and various Indian languages.
You Can Win, possibly the highest selling bestseller in India in its category has sold over 2.76 million copies and You Can Sell has quickly established itself as the leading source for acquiring selling skills in any field.
The partnership between Bloomsbury and Shiv Khera will extend to long awaited new publications. 
Rajiv Beri, managing director, Bloomsbury India, said: “We are delighted to be the publishers of all Shiv Khera books. You Can Win has been the source of inspiration to millions of readers and with the new edition we now aim at spreading Shiv’s message to even a wider national and international readership. You Can Sell, in a short period, has become a bestseller, and Living with Honour and Freedom Is Not Free have an enduring reader base.”
About Shiv Khera
Shiv Khera is the founder of Qualified Learning Systems Inc. USA. An author, educator, business consultant and a successful entrepreneur, he is a much sought-after speaker.
He inspires and encourages people, making them realize their true potential. He has taken his dynamic personal messages to opposite sides of the globe, from the US to Singapore. His thirty years of research, understanding and experience have helped people on the path of personal growth and fulfillment.
Shiv Khera is the author of 16 books including the international bestseller “You Can Win”, which has sold over 2.76 million copies in 16 languages. His other books are creating new records. His clients include Lufthansa, IBM, HP, Citigroup, HSBC, Canon, Nestle, Philips, Mercedes Benz, Johnson & Johnson and many more.
Tens of thousands of people have benefitted from his dynamic workshops internationally in over 17 countries and millions have heard him as a Keynote Speaker. He has appeared on numerous radio and television shows.
He has been recognized by the Round Table Foundation and honored by Rotary International and The Lions International.
His Trademark is “Winners don't do different things. They do things differently.”

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Churchill Alemao: The Big Brother of Indian Football

By John Cheeran

When Churchill Brothers won the Federation Cup for the first time in 
the club’s history, you could not miss the big brother’s presence.
Churchill Alemao (62), the owner of the club, stepped on to the Jawaharlal Nehru International Stadium in Kochi on Saturday night, immediately after the final whistle blew, with a few acolytes in tow holding aloft the club’s red and white flag. Clad in a pathan suit and bathed in floodlights, Alemao stood taller than his six feet. He is unmistakably the don of Indian football. Mobbed by the sparsely crowd that entered the turf, and taking non-stop congratulatory phone calls, there was no mistaking who was the man of the moment. It was not the goal scorers – Balwant Singh, Alesh Swant and Abdel Hamid Shabana—in a 3-1 win over Sporting Clube de Goa, or the coach. It was all about
owner’s pride.

Alemao attributes Churchill Brothers’ Federation Cup victory to divine 
intervention. When asked what led to the transformation of the team which is lying at the bottom of the I-League standings, he flashed a paper icon of the Jesus Christ from his pocket and said “It is God’s work.” Within seconds, he picked another card from his pocket bearing
the image of Velankanni Matha (Our Lady of Health Velankanni) and added that prayers to her always bring good results.

Alemao is a fascinating man. A former chief minister of Goa and a 
former Congress MP from South Goa, he knows how to run the show. And take on his opponents. Right now, he is on a collision course with the All India Football Federation (AIFF). Alemao is against the proposed Indian Super League, a two-month event that IMG-Reliance, AIFF’s
marketing partner, is trying to put together. “ISL will kill Indian football. Over the last 30 years, I have spent more than Rs 300 crore on my team. What has AIFF done for Indian football? Now they want us to pay for franchise rights in the proposed league. It is
preposterous,” says a man who quite clearly relishes the winning moment.

Alemao’s daughter -- Valanka Alemao -- is the club’s CEO. She too is 
delighted with the team’s turnaround in Federation Cup. But Valanka, too, is against the ISL.

Churchill Brothers’ victory, however, brings many contradictions in 
Indian football together. It is the first Federation Cup victory for the club who are the reigning I-League champions. Currently, in the 13-team I-League at the half way stage, they are at the bottom place with two wins and 10 points. And now the laggards have created history
in Indian football by becoming the first club to lift Federation Cup by winning all their matches--five.

Alemao has a habit of taking snap decisions and firing his coaches in 
the past for poor performances but he has somehow kept faith in the local Goan boy, Mariano Dias, who guided the side to the I-League triumph in 2012-13, with advice coming in from technical director and former Indian team coach Subash Bhowmick.

With clamour for more professionalism gaining ground in Indian 
football, it is ironic that a feudal club such as Churchill Brothers have outgunned their much fancied rivals such as Bengaluru FC, backed by the JSW group, and Pune FC, floated by the Piramal Group. Both the clubs have foreign coaches – Bengaluru has Ashely Westwood from England and Pune has the Dutch Mike Snoei and a 10-member support staff to look after every aspect of the game. But they bowed out in the group stage.

The in-thing in Indian club football is to have at least four foreign 
players in the starting XI, but Churchill could only field two foreigners– Egyptian midfielder Abdul Hamid Shabana and Trinidadian striker Anthony Wolfe- in Federation Cup not out of choice but due to
late signings. When pointed out about achieving success with a fully loaded Indian side and only two foreign players, Alemao said with a broad grin that he has signed two more, one of them Costa Rican striker Cristian Lagos Navarro. Earlier in the season Alemao had
packed off his two underperforming recruits, Nigerian defender Hamed Adesope and Syrian striker Ahmed Al Kaddour, leaving them handicapped ostensibly on fire power.

Alemao has his own ways of kicking a football around. But you have to 
give to him for sticking with the club through good times and bad times. When Alemao says he has not made any money from investing in the club, you tend to believe him. You almost commiserate with him in his pursuit of vainglory. For, you immediately stumble upon tombstones of dead and disbanded clubs in Indian football—Mahindra United, JCT,
FC Kochin, Viva Kerala, ITI Bangalore, MRF FC, Mafatlals, Premier Tyres, etc.

The easier thing would have been to disband the club and cut the 
losses as many corporates did. Dodsal Group’s Mumbai Tigers are almost defanged and eating grass now. AIFF, which claims to have a mandate for improving standards in Indian football, too disbanded its side, Indian Arrows. That is the rational and the wise thing to do. But
world and football would have been much less round if not for the likes of the Churchill Brothers.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Kerala Budget: Addictions that will not add up

By John Cheeran

A budget without taxes is like a Harold Robbins novel without sex. When Kerala’s finance minister K M Mani presented his 12th budget in the state assembly on Friday, he did not disappoint Malayalis. The
liquor bill is going up again, so is the price for chasing the illusion of becoming rich. The minister has proposed a 10% tax hike on Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL), which already stands at 105%. Beer
and wine attract 80% tax in the state.

Another great Malayali addiction – lottery — too gets the FM’s attention. He has increased the price of lottery tickets by 50%, with the most popular draw costing you Rs 30 from the existing Rs 20. Between liquor and lottery, the Malayali will have little left in his purse to pursue other slices of happiness.

In fact, if the Malayali stops drinking, the state’s financial structure would collapse. A lion’s share – 40% - of the state’s revenue comes from liquor, lottery and petrol. No wonder, then, that Mani while allocating funds for various social welfare and awareness schemes, including increasing awareness about Kerala’s heritage among the Malayali diaspora in North America, has not earmarked even a paisa for the Gandhian fetish of anti-liquor campaigns.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Dhoni stares at a four-gone conclusion

By John Cheeran

In case you have forgotten, India are still world champions. Mahendra
Singh Dhoni and his merry band of men will continue to be champions till another team will be anointed on March 29, 2015. But for now, Indians have slid from the No.1 pedestal in ODI rankings with their fourth successive defeat (and all away from home) on Wednesday in Seddon Park in Hamilton.

The margin of defeat should not rankle us. But losing first to a
formidable South African (in Johannesburg by 141 runs and in Durban by 134 runs) and now to an eighth ranked New Zealand in a row (24 runs in Napier and 15 runs in Hamilton) should irk us. Is there anything going wrong?

It was a match that India should have won, given how things panned
out. As usual Virat Kohli (78 off 65 balls) was brilliant. And he was lucky too.  Rubbing shoulders with the Indians, the Kiwis let their fielding slip many notches down. First Kohli was dropped, then Dhoni was put down. Suresh Raina was let off to regain his crease. There were many such signs of the hosts wilting under the lights.

That India had to score an additional 26 runs for victory than the 271
posted by New Zealand once the Duckworth-Lewis rules applied cannot be bandied about as an excuse. In a small ground, big-hitting could always win the day. With five wickets in hand and 40 runs required from 18 balls a win was still possible. The reason, skipper Dhoni was still around, tacking his chances. But an unusually nervy Kiwis finally regrouped to dismiss Dhoni (56 off 44b) with Williamson completing the catch off Corey Anderson.

Dhoni in fact tried all that he could do. He juggled around his
bowlers, bringing in seven of them to stem the run flow. But certain things you can’t budget for such as the innings by Corey Anderson when the youngster hammered five sixes to log 44 off 17 balls. It helped the Kiwi cause that Kane Williamson (77 off 87 balls) played the part of No.3 in a responsible manner.

With eight overs less to play in the rain-curtailed match, Dhoni did
the right thing by promoting himself to take control of the innings (India 127/3 in 23.4 overs). With Virat and the skipper at the crease, the chase was on. But they could not make the difference to India’s task at hand. It was a collective failure. None of the Indian batsmen could act as a cornerstone to turn the match around. All of them tried, tried hard, including Suresh Raina but did not succeed. There lies the problem. And it is much bigger than losing the No.1 tag.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Kerala, A State Without Aam Aadmi

By John Cheeran
Kerala has been regarded as a political laboratory for long. For the first time in the world, Communists came to power through ballots in Kerala in 1957. What is today de rigueur in Indian politics, coalition governments, was first stitched together in Kerala successfully in 1961 when Congress, Muslim League and Praja Socialist Party came together. With such political tradition mapping the state, shouldn’t Kerala have invented Aam Aadmi Party much before Arvind Kejriwal and Yogendra Yadav stormed Delhi on an anti-corruption plank? 
Despite the phenomenal success of AAP in Delhi and the flash mob that has surrounded it since then, almost across India, the political lab in Kerala is not giving any smoke-signal that a new solution is bubbling in the state. 
As a starter, Prashant Bhushan, legal luminary and AAP evangelist, has held talks with the resident dissident of the state, veteran CPM leader V S Achuthanandan. But for all indications, VS is not willing to advocate AAP’s cause, only preferring to let Bhushan fight his legal battles.   
How would AAP fare at the hustings in Kerala? 
Read the full story at 

Sunday, January 19, 2014

An eagle circling over Kerala football

By John Cheeran

The barren state of football in Kerala can be best gauged from the eerie silence at the empty Jawaharlal Nehru International Stadium in Kochi when great powers of Indian football such as Mohun Bagan, Churchill Brothers, Salgaocar Goa, Sporting United, Kolkata, and Shillong Lajong battle it out. 

In the first two days, four matches were played out in front of stray spectators, Kerala Football Association (KFA) president K M I Mather, probables for the state Santosh Trophy squad and a 25-odd strong media contingent. Not even a fly from the nearby garbage heap in Kaloor dared to enter the KFA’s fortress. 

All the visiting team coaches and players TOI has spoken to in the last few days are shocked beyond belief at the rotten state of Kerala football and the kind of facilities offered by KFA to them.

Derrick Pereira, Salgaocar coach and former India player, who had led Goa to its first junior national crown at a packed Maharajas College Ground in 1980 still remembers the roar from the football loving Kochi crowd. “Football lovers in Kochi have this rare quality of encouraging any side that plays well. Who shooed them away,” asks Pereira.

The last time a club from Kerala kissed the Federation Cup was in 1990 and 1991. The last time Kerala won Santosh Trophy was in 2004. The current national squad has a lone player from Kerala, C K Vineeth.

Who killed Kerala football and the Malayali football fan? May be KFA’s long–serving president, K M I Mather would know. A seasoned politician and real estate tycoon based in Kochi, 73-year-old Mather is one of the general secretaries of Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee. For more than a decade he has been clinging on to the KFA president’s post. It is a pity that former Union sports minister and Congress leader Ajay Maken’s proposal that all 70-year-old sports body chiefs should quit is ignored by the KFA chieftain.

It is, however, important to note that Federation Cup matches at Manjeri in Malappuram district are drawing crowds to the tune of 25,000. But, then, KFA can take little credit for such a heart-warming turnout. It’s Malappuram’s sevens football culture that is coming to fore, a culture that KFA dreads and tries repeatedly to stamp out.

It is Kerala’s sevens football culture, not KFA’s apparatchiks, that produced legends such as I M Vijayan, C V Pappachan, V P Sathyan, Sharafali and Jo Paul Anchery.

It is quite evident that Mather has his priorities elsewhere. KFA has been successful in its campaign to include Eagles FC in the ongoing Federation Cup. It is strange why All India Football Federation (AIFF) picked Eagles FC, a club that failed to qualify for the six-team final round of the second division league last season. Four teams that are part of the second division league this season --Royal Wahingdoh FC (16pts), Aizwal FC (13pts), Kenkre Sports FC (10 pts), PIFA Sports (6pts) had performed better than Eagles FC which ended up with a mere 5 points in the league in 2012-13. 

Despite repeated email requests and text messages, AIFF spokesperson Nilanjan Datta, usually a loquacious man, refused to come clean on Eagles’s participation but industry sources said Eagles FC was given a ticket to Federation Cup to bring in local supporters since the tournament is being played in Kerala. 

Interestingly, Eagles FC has 13 players on loan from IMG-Reliance, which has a 15-year, Rs 700 crore commercial rights deal with the AIFF, in its roster, after the sudden postponement of the ambitious Indian Super League. A team that is in the tournament ostensibly to add local flavour, however, only fields four Malayali players in its playing XI.

Last Saturday in the 40th Kerala State Football championship held at Wadakkanchery, two-time former Federation Cup winners Kerala Police had defeated Eagles FC to lift the trophy. A few weeks earlier, Eagles FC had gone down to Kerala Police in the semifinal of the 39th edition of Kerala State Football championship held at Meenangadi. It only goes to prove that Eagles FC is not even the best side in Kerala.

And consider this. Which self-respecting football association stages its two annual state championships within a span of weeks? Is this the way to promote the game?

C V Pappachan who was instrumental in Kerala Police winning two  Federation Cups, along with IM Vijayan, says Kerala football is languishing because there are no tournaments for players to show their wares. “We have players but where are the tournaments? Without  tournaments, how our players will improve the game? Who is responsible for running the game in the state,” asks Pappachan. 

Pappachan, a playmaker par excellence, points out that Kerala Police had beaten Eagles FC twice in succession in the 39th and the 40th state championships but KFA did not present the case of the two-time winners to the AIFF. “The reasons are obvious. KFA bosses have pushed for a team in which they have stakes,” says Pappachan.

Pappachan points out how in 1990 when Federation Cup was being staged in Thrissur, there was a qualifying tournament for teams from South India. “Titanium had won a direct entry by virtue of being state champions. Kerala Police played the qualifier, won the spot and won the championship,” said Papapachan. 

That no one cares two hoots for a team propped up by a consortium of political and business tycoons is quite clear by now by the boycott of the tournament by football fans. It explains a lot that one of the promoters of Eagles FC is Mather himself, a flagrant instance of conflict of interest. How can Mather, who is one of the vice-presidents of AIFF, also own a club and push for its inclusion in AIFF tournaments?

With AIFF pumping in Rs 3.5 crore to organize the event and footing the travelling and lodging expenses of the clubs, staging the tournament should have been a cakewalk for KFA, unlike in 1977 when Kochi staged the very first Federation Cup which was an unmitigated financial disaster, according to former KFA secretary K Bodhanandan. 

KFA’s inept organization skills have invited the wrath of all the clubs that are playing in Kochi and Manjeri. In Kochi, all the eight clubs are forced to have practice sessions at the match venue, Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, owing to abysmal conditions at the KFA scheduled practice grounds.

Not just that. With three of India’s top clubs jostling for space  during practice sessions simultaneously, half the ground is being taken by Celebrity Cricket League players and officials every day and the venerable KFA leadership has not moved either its left foot or the right one.

In Manjeri, too, the scene is not any different, forcing Dempo SC’s Australian coach Arthur Papas to take to Twitter. One of his tweets read: “I’m left speechless at the incompetence of how football is run in this country, no rhyme or reason to anything.” In turn, his associates have asked Papas whether he is asking his players to have a roll in the sand after practice, poking fun at the third world’s  attempts to run the game.

KFA’s unprofessional attitude is a clear pointer to India’s 154th spot in FIFA rankings. And imagine, the KFA wants to host Under-17 FIFA World Cup in Kochi in 2017!

Not only has KFA failed to offer basic facilities to participating teams but it has been petty and arrogant in not inviting the heroes who delivered Federation Cup twice for Kerala to attend the matches.  It seems KFA prefers to have empty seats around them to the experienced boots who kicked Kerala football in the right direction.

Indian Football: A kick in the right direction?

By John Cheeran

Football fever comes a little early to Kerala in the year of World Cup. The average Indian football fan, who will never make it to Maracana in his lifetime, has an opportunity to trot into stadiums in Kochi and Manjeri to kick themselves in frustration, cheer and jeer footballers, as Federation Cup begins today.

This could be the poor man’s World Cup, with each I-League club having up to four foreign players in their starting XI, most of them hailing from African continent and a few exceptions from England, Australia and Brazil.

The 35th edition of Federation Cup, a tournament that has lost much of its punch and prestige since the National League began in 1997 (later avatar I-League in 2007), brings together 16 top clubs – all the 13 I-League teams and three second division outfits –in a group-cum-knockout format.

It’s the homecoming for Federation Cup. The tournament began in Kochi in 1977. Till then the premier football championship in the country was the inter-state championship for Santosh Trophy and Durand Cup, the longest running football tournament outside of Britain, which began in 1888. Although there were tournaments with the recognition of All India Football Federation (AIFF), there was no premier competition for clubs. When AIFF headquarters was moved from Bombay to Bangalore in 1975 with A T Vijayarangam taking over as president, the stage was set for a new tournament.

A R Khaleel, chairman, I-League, and president of Karnataka Football Association (KFA) told ARRACKISTAN that Federation Cup was the brainchild of Rangam. Khaleel, who was then a member of KFA disciplinary committee, says: “Rangam was more than a great administrator. He was a passionate football fan. The trophy was crafted by a jeweller in Madras of pure silver, costing Rs40,000, a princely sum in those days.”

Federation Cup then was the ultimate prize in Indian club football (the current paycheck for winners is Rs 25 lakh and for runners-up is Rs 15 lakh), an equal opportunity tournament for clubs other than the Kolkata giants of East Bengal, Mohun Bagan and Mohammedan Sporting. It was significant that the first final was won by ITI (Indian Telephone Industries) Bangalore, an institutional team that was shut down in 2005 owing to paucity of funds, ending the supremacy of Kolkata clubs. ITI stunned Mohun Bagan 1-0 in the final.

But boots of Kolkata clubs continue to deliver the goals despite such odd defeats. In the last seven editions of Federation Cup –between 2007 and 2012- the champions were either Mohun Bagan or East Bengal, a fact that underscores the vim and vigour of Kolkata league.

All that may change in 2014. With Bengaluru FC, the team floated by JSW Group, making waves in its debut year in the I-League, (the club is leading the I-League charts), the established teams and managements have reasons to rethink their positions and strategies. Managed by former Manchester United youth player and former Blackburn Rovers assistant manager Ashely Westwood, Bengaluru FC could end the Kolkata-Goa duality in Indian football.

Sunil Chhetri, the highest valued Indian player (Rs 1.35 crore earnings a season), and the captain of the national squad, provides the steely resolve to the side. Bengaluru FC has chosen its four foreign players (AIFF allows clubs to play a maximum of four players in the XI) wisely – with two defenders -- former English Premier League player John Johnson, and Kenyan Curtis Osano, and midfielder --Liberian Johnny Menyongar and a striker --Australian Sean Rooney.

The established tradition gets another kick with the emergence of Pune FC as a force to reckon with in Indian football. Formed in 2007 by the Ashok Piramal Group and guided by astute Goan manager Derrick Pereira, Pune FC grabbed second spot up in I-League in 2012-13.

With a new coach at the helm – Dutch Mike Snoei – and led by Kerala defender Anas Edathikode, Pune will raise a strong bid for the championship in Kochi. Pune, too, has a dominant foreign foot with defender Calum Angus (England), midfielder James Meyer (Australian), striker Riga Mustafa (Ghana and Dutch) and midfielder Douhou Pierre (Ivory Coast) in the line-up.

The changing goal post in Indian football is reflected in the current I-League standings. The top four clubs, midway into the season, are all non-Kolkata – Bengaluru FC, Sporting Club de Goa, Pune FC and Meghalayan side Shillong Lajong FC.

A tournament lacks drama without a Group of Death and here it is Group B. Defending champions East Bengal, Bengaluru FC, Sporting Club de Goa, and Meghalayan side Rangdajied United will see close contests with only group toppers qualifying for semi-finals.

The team to watch-out will be the Goan side Salgaocar FC. With Pereira back as coach, they could be the surprise package. In recent history, only Salgaocar have broken the Kolkata stranglehold on Federation Cup (2011).

Not much is expected of Eagles FC, the only Kerala club in the competition. Eagles got the ticket when Langsning FC, Shillong, failed to match Asian Football Confederation’s licensing criteria. The second division club has been accommodated in the tournament in a bid to fill the galleries.

It is time to change the game

By John Cheeran

Cricket needs to reinvent itself. The game has been tinkered with many times in the past with one-day cricket being brought to life from the rib cage of Test cricket on January 5, 1971. Then came the Twenty 20, suitably cut for an age bereft of ideology. Later came the beast IPL.

All these changes fundamentally go against the grain of cricket. Simply put, they are reductionary and limiting in nature. Cricket’s (read Test cricket) charm lies in its open-ended approach even though it has a time frame of five days, and 90 overs each a day.

Unlike other sport events, Test cricket offers you a second chance, a luxury that life does not offer you. You can turn a game around purely relying on the second innings. In football you have a second half, you have the extra time, the final minute and the kick in the ass. In boxing you have round after round, you can get up after getting knocked down but in such cases they are merely continuations of the first minute.

A Test match can end before lunch on the second day or can go on till the last ball on the fifth day. A football or hockey match, even if one side is leading by 30-0, has to run till 90 or 70 minutes. 

But that said few have paid attention to make Test cricket more beautiful, more thrilling and more beguiling. To derive the maximum from Test cricket, you have to make it limitless, you have to make it timeless.

Since those who are in a rush and impatient have their own Twenty 20s and Fifty-50s it is time to liberate Test cricket from the stultifying time frame. Let the game play out itself. Let us remove the barricades of five days and make it a primal fight to the finish. Challenge is always in pushing yourself to the limits.

There will be no changes in rules except that each side will play out their first and second innings completely. Over restrictions will not hamper the game. The Test, if need be, can go on to a sixth or seventh day. Till the last wicket falls or the target is met. In limitless Test cricket, there will be no place to hide on the ground. Only persistent bad weather can lead to calling off a Test. 

Whereas all sport events produce a winner, (now including cricket with its popular versions of Twenty20 and original ODIs. T20s have super overs to eliminate the rarest of rare ‘ties’ ) it is only Test cricket that makes room for ‘exciting’ draws.

To live with a draw has its own benefits (and there have been many, many exciting draws in the history of Test cricket with the latest being the one played out in Johannesburg between visiting Indians and South Africa) but draws only further the cause of diplomacy. 

After five days what separated India and South Africa in Johannesburg was the absence of a few overs. The match ended in a draw with South Africa requiring eight runs and India needing three wickets. The force, certainly, was with South Africa, who after being outplayed grabbed their second innings chance to make amends to first innings follies and attempt the impossible – accomplish the highest ever successful run chase of scoring 458 runs. Another over or two would have settled the match’s outcome. So why, after watching every ball for five days, one should settle for an ‘exciting’ draw? How much of truth and justice is in the cliché that no one deserved to lose? Most often, draw unduly favours the weakest side and hence we write the line, escaping with the draw.

There are no draws in basketball or in boxing ring. That’s why Americans love such honest arguments. That everyone wants a closure to life’s fundamental questions is well accepted fact. A crucial reason for Test cricket’s lack of popularity apart from the Commonwealth nations is its inbuilt room for draw.

Fears that limitless Test cricket will lead to endless boredom or stalemates are misplaced. Nor will it take away from the glorious uncertainties of the game. No side will let their first innings extend into a third day just because the Test is timeless and bowlers are directionless and the wicket is a sleeping beauty. The age of Anshuman Gaekwads and Mudassar Nazars are behind us. Remember that there is someone watching the game. 

Followers of the game are demanding, if not intolerant. Crawlers on the crease will lose their endorsement and entertainment in value in no time. Limitless Tests will also force the host nations to prepare wickets that offer some purchase for bowlers so that they will not end up with a situation where after five days both teams have not completed their first innings. That would be a scheduling nightmare.

Another fear is that captains will not exercise the call of declarations when Tests are timeless. Why declare your second innings when there is enough time to bowl out the opposition? Why declare the first innings when you don’t know if the batting conditions remain true in the final sessions?

But how often in recent history you have witnessed first innings declarations? Very few. Even declarations in the second innings have come only after ensuring what is a safe position, given the strength of the opposition’s batting rather than the time left in the game.

There is no doubt that only antidote to ODIs and Twenty 20s is limitless Test cricket. It will take both the art of batting and craft of bowling to its purest forms. It will cleanse the game of false reputations as all Test playing nations will be forced to search for bowlers who can deliver the results and not merely be a statistic.

Let’s change the game.

Who Is Afraid of Virender Sehwag?

By John Cheeran
Who is afraid of Virender Sehwag? Alas, no one. Not bowlers, anyway. The most destructive of modern batsmen, who pushed the boundaries of batting along with the Sri Lankan genius Sanath Jayasuriya, cannot even contemplate his retirement from the game because his form is so wretched with the bat that the thought evokes only a yawn.

Sehwag is nowhere near the Indian team. He played his last Test almost a year ago, in March 2013, scoring 6 in India’s first innings against Australia when Murali Vijay (167) and Cheteshwar Pujara (204) laid the foundation for the hosts’s victory. Last heard, even the IPL franchise Delhi Daredevils are unlikely to retain Sehwag for the league’s seventh edition, when the deadline (January 10) to submit the list ends.

The only way to reclaim your spot in the Indian XI is by scoring heavily in domestic cricket and force Sandeep Patil, the chairman of the national selection committee, to suggest your name to captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni. But Sehwag’s batting average in the current season of Ranji Trophy is worse than that of tailender Ashish Nehra. Sehwag logged 234 runs averaging 19.50 from 13 innings while Nehra made 182 in eight innings at 22.75.

Normally, at such juncture, critics issue advisories to the batsman to call it a day. May be you too would have issued a note to Mr Sachin Tendulkar in his autumn, urging him to quit from international cricket, because you somehow cared for the guy.

In Sehwag’s case, no one seems to care. Neither the Board of Control for Cricket in India, nor the Indian captain, who has just lost both the one-day and Test series in South Africa but sports the looks of a Nobel peace prize winner for avoiding a massacre in Johannesburg and Durban, cares for Sehwag.

And this indifference reaffirms the business of sport. It does not run on recollections of past glory. Now you don’t need Sehwag because you have Virat Kohli, Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane. You in fact even have a Shikhar Dhawan, a poor version of Sehwag, but with a high sense of exhibitionist twirl.

But remember Sehwag is no ordinary batsman even though, now, he is worse than ordinary. No one has pulled off the kind of feats Sehwag has done for India. Not even Mr Sachin Tendulkar. Sehwag holds the highest score by an Indian Test batsman --319. The next two best Test scores again belong to Sehwag -- 309 and 293. He is one of the four batsmen in the world who has scored two triple centuries in Tests. He has the fastest triple century in international cricket (300 from 278 balls). Sehwag also equalled Tendulkar’s feat of scoring a double century in ODIs. This is just for records.

His true worth lies elsewhere. As everyone knows, Sehwag upended cricket’s conventions. He redefined the opener’s role in Test cricket. He blurred the barriers between Tests and ODIs. He did not care for the game’s history or for its legends. His batting, at its best, is hardly flawless. He is an inspirational player who relies on reflexes. After 35 years, his eyesight is not what it used to be. The spectacles have not restored his vision for batting; it has reflected only in a string of poor scores in Ranji Trophy.

Sehwag needs help. Badly. More than any technical input, Sehwag needs to be reminded who he is. He should be told why everyone was afraid of Virender Sehwag. For someone who has been studiously ignorant of the game’s history, he should be reminded what his contributions for Indian cricket have been.

Before he becomes a mere statistic, Sehwag needs to be given a last chance to remind all of us that we will not see for a long time a certain kind of light  on the cricket field. For, he is no Corey Anderson, an instant hit. No one advocates an orchestrated farewell circus, but help can be a few words from his peers that he can still do it.

Will Mahendra Singh Dhoni be gracious enough to rekindle the fire in Sehwag’s belly? Just say you do care.

Or is Indian cricket still afraid of Sehwag?

Monday, January 06, 2014

The Hundred Names of Darkness

By John Cheeran
The most celebrated cats in India live in Delhi. Don’t mistake, they are not the black cats who guard India’s political elite. The days of black cats are any way numbered since Aam Aadmi Party has formed the government in Delhi and its leader Arvind Kejriwal has promised to end the VIP culture. If the VIP culture ends, the black cats have to look for someplace else.
Or they can send an SMS through their whiskers to the most celebrated cats, the Nizamuddin cats, seeking support. They are the ones with more than nine lives and colourful tails.
In a wonderful sequel to The Wildings, Nilanjana Roy writes about the upheaval in the lives of Nizamuddin cats, who are forced to abandon their alleys as the big feet encroach upon their space. The Hundred Names of Darkness (Published by Aleph, 313 pages, Rs 495) is much more than about the cat’s whiskers. It’s about us, the big feet.
A struggle for survival is always a gripping read, even if it is not exactly a dogfight. The big feet tend to enjoy Dickensian drama. The painful retreat of Mara, the sender of Nizamuddin, and her friends from the alleys of Nizamuddin to ‘greener’ pastures surely brings a pause to the steps of the big feet. (For now, Roy has not found a cat who wants to read Shakespeare. They are still interested in fish and chips and occasional bandicoot.)  
Roy’s success lies in convincing the big feet that the lives of Mara, Southpaw, Hulo and Beraal are not different from theirs. As much as the big feet worry about parenting, and issues such as Section 377, cats and cheels too have their own dilemmas. The struggle of Hatch the cheel to live up to his father’s expectation should interest any of the big feet. Hatch, whom his father Tooth calls a freak, makes this telling comment – “Just because we have done it for generations doesn’t mean we have to keep doing it.”  That is some food for thought for the big feet. And much more important than conquering fear -- fear of the unknown—is the need to remember who you are, cautions Roy.      
Much of the charm of The Hundred Names of Darkness is in Roy’s brilliance in inversing the big feet’s world. It amuses you no end while coming face to face with a Delhi dog named Doginder and a peacock aptly called Thomas Mor. When Roy writes “a laughing crocodile of schoolboys” and “the ants maintained a dignified silence” you keep reading. The writing is on the wall, and it is really cool.  Sample this: “The tomcat stretched out his whiskers, wanting to understand, unable to make head or tail of what they were saying; their talk was as meaningless as water rushing from an open tap over the cobbled stones of the alleys inside Nizamuddin.”
And make no mistake. This is not a book for your kids. This is just for you. Enjoy.

Sunday, January 05, 2014

A House For Mr Kejriwal

By John Cheeran
Delhi chief minister is a homeless man today. Arvind Kejriwal, the
primal aam aadmi, has been forced to vacate his two five-bedroom
duplexes on Bhagwan Dass Road in Lutyens’s Delhi, even before he could
step in there with his parents, wife and kids.
What you are witnessing is another slice of direct democracy,
practised by Aam Aadmi Party. On Saturday, Kejriwal told television
channel reporters that after listening to aam aadmis within his party
and a late night call from his conscience he has decided to let the
bungalows go. So another round of house hunting is on.
It is notable that compared to the house occupied by former Delhi
chief minister Sheila Dikshit on Motlial Nehru Marg, Kejriwal’s chosen
bungalows were poor cousins.
There has been an outcry, most notably by BJP leaders, at the spacious
bungalows allocated to the Delhi chief minister. How can an ‘aam
aadmi’ chief minister live in opulence, asked the media and critics.
Now that’s a question Kejriwal himself invited after peddling needless
symbolism. Kejriwal is a prisoner of his own cheap populism. After
free water and cheaper electricity, does Delhi CM have a right to live
in a 9,000 square feet quarters?
Why should anyone object to a chief minister living in a five bedroom
house? Or should Kejriwal continue to live in his Kaushambi flat and
take Metro every day to the chief minister’s office?
Good governance can steer clear of gimmicks. That’s one important
lesson Kejriwal has to learn fast. It does not matter whether Kejriwal
lives in a downmarket DDA flat in Mayur Vihar Phase III or in a
bungalow on Bhagwan Dass Road. What matters is that how he can make a
difference to people’s lives by bringing down toxic levels of
corruption, flouting of rules, and ensuring an even spread of
development for aam aadmi as well as non-aam aadmis. Justice and
governance should get rid of trite labels.
In a wired world, it does not matter where you are. As long as you
have access to enough information, you can make correct decisions.
Yes, where you sit matters in Kejriwal’s case up to a point – the
whole India is talking about him precisely because he today sits in
the chief minister’s chair. That’s the power of symbol and that’s the
meaningful inch of real estate in Lutyens’s Delhi that people should
be worried about.
And it also matters that Kejriwal should sit in comfort. He should not
be imagining himself to be a political Bhishma, neither should his
critics and aam aadmis expect him to be one, and prepare a bed of
arrows to express solidarity with the homeless and shelter-less
denizens of Delhi.
It is time to throw out puerile symbolism and get ready to work.
Everyone has a right to live in comfort, if not in opulence. To live
and work in comfort is not a sin, not a crime.
It would be foolish to expect that aam aadmi will forgive your
administrative dithering and political pussyfooting just because you
occupy a cramped quarters. And let’s not worry about who wields the
broom in Kejriwal’s home.

Friday, January 03, 2014

The art of cricket, when artist is Srinivasan

By John Cheeran

There is a certain kind of sporting fan in India who thrives on schadenfreude. Every time India suffers a defeat, his mood brightens up, as a vindication of his dystopian world view. He can't be blamed, for an average Indian sport fan is a cynic who envies the fortunes that successful sportsmen carry home. Oh, are you talking cricket?
Did anyone expect Mahendra Singh Dhoni's men to make South Africans grovel before them in South Africa? Did you bet on Indians to pick themselves up after the shellacking they got in the one-day series?
If ODI world champions could not match up to South Africans, what chance do they have in the longer format, the charm of which lies in its open ended nature? Very little. But in the end, that LITTLE meant a lot. Yes, India were outplayed in Durban and they lost the Test series. But the series was hardly a one-way street. This was a dignified burial for India’s hopes to be world-beaters away from home, as much as the apostle of reconciliation Nelson Mandela got in South Africa. 
So what are the year-end takeaways for Indian cricket? Cricket will continue to cocaine Indian fan despite the passing away of the age of Sachin Tendulkar. One has witnessed enough to be convinced about the grinding and gun-toting warfare of Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli. It is not just them. Ajinkya Rahane’s pluck is a lucky pointer for Indian batting. And occasionally, only occasionally, as was the case in the past, bowlers remind the opposition of their existence. In that nothing much has changed. India’s dismal record abroad remains a shabby piece of statistic. Under Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s leadership India has lost nine of the last 10 Tests.
For all that, for me, the biggest winner in Indian cricket last year has been none other than N Srinivasan. Despite the court martial by television anchors, you still have him in control as the New Year rolls in. Srinivasan, against great odds, stood his ground. He did not resign but only stepped aside when bouncers flew around him. One quality that Indian batsmen and bowlers could do with is his stubbornness, a quality once Indian cricket associated with the incomparable Sunil Gavaskar.
Even the Supreme Court did not stop Srinivasan from lording over Indian cricket. He continues to be the president of BCCI and critics have finally allowed him to ‘violate’ the game. 
And look at the way Srinivasan managed to send off Sachin Tendulkar, arranging an anodyne series against the West Indies. He forced Cricket South Africa (CSA) chief Haroon Lorgat to step aside when Indian team went on the South African tour. His ‘Chennai Super King’ continues to be Indian cricket team captain, despite losing both ODI and Test series. There is not even a murmur about unburdening Dhoni of leadership despite his atrocious away record. That’s the art of cricket, when artist is Srinivasan.
John Cheeran at Blogged