Wednesday, February 26, 2014

An Indian on trial in Dhaka

By John Cheeran
Man is driven by ambition. To lead India is the ultimate honour an Indian cricketer can aspire for. Equally, it is a prize that once you get hold of, reluctant to let it go. You tend to dig in your heel, even when the tide is turning against you. Such are the corridors of history that creak and let a situation turn from an opportunity to crisis.
Virat Kohli is a young man, climbing towards the mountain of greatness. He is, however, at the base camp. He is leading India’s Asia Cup campaign in Bangladesh. He is more than a stand-in captain for an injured and tired and defeated Mahendra Singh Dhoni. At 25, Kohli is mastering the art of batting and learning the politics of leadership. He is the one man that Indian cricket should bet on. For that BCCI should take a bold and an honest call to declare its intent that Kohli is the man for the future. One can argue that there is still time to decide who should lead India in England during the five-match Test series (first time since 1959) and five match ODI series in July-September. But now is the time for BCCI to show faith in Kohli.
Asia Cup is important for India, a team that is on a losing streak, and it is more important for Kohli, who has more at stake than anyone else in the current squad.
Let’s be honest. Kohli wants to lead India. And if India does not win Asia Cup–against all familiar enemies--and goes down to Pakistan in the March 2 group encounter, he will lose chances of leading India in England. All that N Srinivasan needs to cement Dhoni’s place as Indian captain is a faltering step by the rival. Kohli is on trial in Dhaka.
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Monday, February 24, 2014

Do we need a coach for non-existent national football team?

By John Cheeran
Everyone agrees on this point. To breathe fresh air into Indian football, you have to work at grassroots. Indian footballers, including the senior national squad, lack basic skills of dribbling and controlling. How can any coach, however inspirational and astute he is, teach seniors the basics? He can, of course, improve their tactical play.
By virtue of their lackadaisical display in whatever limited opportunities that came their way in recent times, Indian national footballers are free birds now. They have no burdens of play like teams that have qualified for World Cup, Asian Challenge Cup and Asian Cup. The football competition as part of Asian Games in Incheon in South Korea is only in September. But only three seniors can be in the squad for Asian Games since it is an Under-23 event.
If that's the case, what role do national team coach Wim Koevermans and technical director Rob Baan play?
AIFF brought in Dutch veteran Baan in November 2011. A year later, Baan sold his countryman Koevermans to AIFF in July 2012 as national coach.

Things, however, haven't improved.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

It’s time for Virat Kohli to take over from Dhoni

By John Cheeran
The captaincy question returns. It is time to lessen the burden of Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Stepping down as captain would serve both Dhoni’s and Team India’s interests. He has had the longest run as India’s skipper in Tests – 53 matches.
New Zealand tour, simply put, has been a disaster. Dhoni’s men lost the five-match one-day series 0-4 and the Test series 0-1. It would have been catastrophic had India attempted to go for the victory target of 435 runs in Basin Reserve, Wellington, befitting the ‘super king’ status they claim. Indian openers Murali Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan tried but Virat Kohli had other plans when he cracked a plucky century to keep the Kiwis at bay.
As captain Dhoni has been successful in the past. He inspired an average bunch of cricketers to win the World Cup in 2011. But since then it has been a downhill journey for the side as much as for Kapil’s Devils who, after stunning the cricket world in 1983, had a string of Test defeats against the West Indies and England.
As Test captain Dhoni has an abysmal record abroad. Since 2011 India has lost Test series in England (0-4), Australia (0-4), South Africa (0-1) and New Zealand (0-1). In the last three years India has not won a single Test abroad, out of the 14 it has played.
There can be arguments that clearly England, Australia and South Africa were far superior sides compared to India when Dhoni locked horns with them. But should world champions tremble in fear in New Zealand? Not a single Indian supporter would have thought the series would be so lop-sided.
At some stage, senior players should take responsibility. It is such a time for Dhoni. Dhoni knows he is on the back foot now and clearly, he has stopped blaming anyone, especially bowlers, for the disastrous consequences in Auckland and Wellington. Who is to be blamed for letting a side escape from 94/5 while staring at innings defeat and turn the tables on you? Dhoni the captain has been clearly too defensive in his approach in Tests.

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Monday, February 17, 2014

What McCullum taught Dhoni in Wellington

By John Cheeran
The outcome of the second Test in Wellington has become irrelevant. India may win it tomorrow, but New Zealand has won it already on Monday.
The last two days have been a revelation about Indian cricket in the form of Brendon McCullum. India lacks quality performers to force their will upon the game. Indian cricket team lacks the will to surpass the surroundings and change the game.
If he were an Indian, New Zealand skipper would have been declared as a living saint for performing the kind of miracles he has done first in Auckland (224 in the first innings) and now in Basin Reserve. For lesser wonders we have canonized cricketers.
McCullum has taken the match away from India with his magnificent (yes, he was dropped early on his innings on Sunday) unbeaten 281. (A VVS Laxmanesque score when the Indian played a match-turning second innings against the Aussies) After conceding a first innings lead of 246 runs and finding the team tottering at 94/5 who would have thought the Kiwis would go into the final day of the Test and series holding the advantage. New Zealand now leads by 325 runs. They have the freedom to frustrate India further by adding more runs and denying India less time to go for an exciting win.
To crack two double centuries in consecutive matches against what was initially considered a world class opposition is a no mean feat. It’s a feat not even the great Sachin Tendulkar has done in his refulgent, long career. On Tuesday, McCullum could surpass Tendulkar by completing his first Test triple century.

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Sunday, February 16, 2014

Is India ready for a Vedic state?

By John Cheeran
Should India move towards a presidential system, an American or French model of governance?  As the election campaign for 2014 Lok Sabha gains momentum BJP is claiming that their candidate is Narendra Modi in all 543 constituencies across India. It is a terrific campaign pitch but we will have to wait and see how aam aadmi considers such a proposition.
Whether India needs to discard its parliamentary, Westminster model system for a presidential, Vedic state is the dominant theme that Tabrik C, a political enthusiast and a perfumer, puts up for discussion in his political thriller ---Prisoner, Jailor Prime Minister (published by Hachette India, Price R350, Pages 320). An apt read as you ponder the fortunes of Rahul Gandhi, Narendra Modi and Jayalalithaa in the coming elections.
Prisoner, Jailor, Prime Minister (PJPM), however, does not get stuck in the immediate. Tabrik looks ahead, pushes India to a standoff against China while coalitions continue to provide the political glue at home.
For someone who describes himself as an expert in predicting the rise and fall of political personalities, Tabrik quite interestingly has called 2014 elections in Modi’s favour but stops short of naming him. He also predicts a mid-term poll exactly two years after the general election of 2014 so that his lithium popping, musical genius of a politician can step in as prime minister for a Federal Front! Tabrik’s hero Siddhartha Tagore is a dark horse riding an unexpected political tsunami and “it was time for the two main national parties to reflect and accept that in just 30 months they had lost the support of the people,” writes Tabrik.

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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Why The IPL Auction Needs To Be Scrapped

By John Cheeran
Are cricketers a commodity that they need to go up in auction? The player auction for IPL-7 is happening in Bangalore today. Eight franchises are bidding for players, each with an expenditure cap of Rs 60 crore. BCCI, which owns the IPL property, has released a list of 514 players who will be auctioned. And everyone seems to be happy.
How the auction happens in Bangalore today is not the point of debate but why it happening is. The broad agreement would be that the auction is a search for the best talent to fulfill the needs of each franchise. If that is the case, why should there be an auction at all? Can’t each franchise enter into an agreement with players of their choice from a pool that BCCI finalizes? And provide transfers in the succeeding years as FIFA does in football.
As things stand now, a cricketer has little say in which team he will play for in IPL. 
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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

What next for Chennai Super Kings?

By John Cheeran
What next for Chennai Super Kings? Will they be terminated from IPL for one of its team officials having brought the game to disrepute? These questions swirl around after the three-member Supreme Court appointed committee to look into allegations of betting and spot-fixing during IPL-6 submitted its report on Monday. 
Now, what has the committee led by former Punjab and Haryana Chief Justice Mukul Mudgal said in its report? 
1. The role of Gurunath Meiyappan in Chennai Super Kings (CSK) as the team official stands proved 
2. Allegations of betting and passing of information against Meiyappan stand proved
3. Allegations of match-fixing against Meiyappan require further investigation
Meiyappan is the son-in-law of BCCI president N Srinivasan and was the team principal of Chennai Super Kings. Last year when the match-fixing controversy broke midway through IPL-6, Srinivasan had argued, famously, that Meiyappan had nothing to do with CSK but he was only a cricket enthusiast. 
Srinivasan had a reason to argue so. 
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Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Why the Church is waltzing with Narendra Modi in Kerala

By John Cheeran
The Church’s truck with Narendra Modi is becoming apparent by each passing day in Kerala as the alert has been sounded for the Lok Sabha elections in 2014.
In Kerala, the Christians are hardly a minority community. They, in fact, run the show in the state. (To state the facts, they are still a minority going by sheer numbers. The Christians are only 19% among a population of 3.34 crore Malayalis with the Hindus (57%) and the Muslims (25%) dominating the demography.)
The chief minister is a God-fearing Orthodox Christian. The finance minister is a God-fearing Catholic. The opinion maker, the largest selling daily newspaper in Kerala – The Malayala Manorama--, is run by a God-fearing Orthodox family. At all levels of bureaucracy, including the law and order, there are a significant number of God-fearing Christians. 
Secularism is the great ruse that brings together both the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) and the CPM-led Left Democratic Front (LDF). The transfer of power happens every five years between the UDF and LDF and, in this affair, BJP has little role to play. So there is no fear factor, when you contemplate the idea of Modi.
That pretty much explains why the Christians in Kerala think they have nothing to worry about Modi becoming the Prime Minister of India. So does the Church leadership. After all the Christians are astute businessmen and they have turned education and healthcare into a much thriving business in Kerala and elsewhere in the country. And what’s Modi’s hallmark? The great leader encourages businessmen. He cuts red tape and makes things easier for business. So that makes him a good man?
Of course, it does. 
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Monday, February 03, 2014

Where is Khirki Extension In Delhi?

By John Cheeran
Delhi is a city of graveyards. Of reputations as well as of people, some of whose names died before them. Empires have risen and fallen in Delhi, the latest threat to the Red Fort posed by a band of activists going by the name of Aam Aadmi Party.
The flavour of the season, unmistakably, is aam aadmi. If someone is missing from Malvika Singh’s delightful book on Delhi, Perpetual City (Published by Aleph, Price Rs 295 Pages 128), it is the aam aadmi. But Premola Ghose’s cover illustration is a beauty and you might buy the book just for it. You will not miss the car with the lal batti!
Delhi, many consider, a disgraceful place, lacking in civility and culture. It is a place for politicians, goes the typical refrain. It is the most unsafe place for women in India. It is also the protest street of India, where a chief minister sits in dharna, demanding the transfer of a few constables.

You cannot also ignore that all that are worth looking up in Delhi were built either by the Mughals or the British. What have Indians or ‘Delhiites’ built and nourished post-partition? May be Arvind Kejriwal should try bringing back Yamuna to Delhi through a Bill. 

Sunday, February 02, 2014

A Tattoo for Dhoni: Fail Again, Fail Better

By John Cheeran
That there was no doubt about the outcome of India’s fourth ODI against New Zealand, even Mahendra Singh Dhoni agrees. For, India on Tuesday was playing against itself, not against the Kiwis. And they did not do badly, either. They only lost one more ODI match, but Dhoni still have the satisfaction of calling the toss right for the fourth time on the trot. 
An ordinary but revealing moment in the final stage of the match said it all. With New Zealand skipper Brendon McCullum charging into play his own part in an awesome series win against world champions, both Ravindra Jadeja and Ambadi Rayudu rushed to close in on a skier that was coming down. What could have been an easy dismissal turned out to be a dropped opportunity. But not costly, considering that India had given up the match many overs ago.

Earlier, Dhoni had dropped Shikhar Dhawan and Suresh Raina from the XI, an example of trying too hard to turn the tide. But the changes did not yield the desired result with Virat Kohli failing in his opener’s role.  You cannot expect a cricketer to come good in every match. That, essentially, is the difference between sport and art. Only one guy came close to resemble Rajinikanth on cricket pitch. But even Sachin Tendulkar failed in such adventures.
It is important that Dhoni and, mostly, we, should get used to Kohli and his ilk failing more often. A team’s strength is in all its men, so it is heartening that Rohit Sharma, Dhoni and Jadea all got runs today. That it was not enough is quite another truth. 
Look at the Kiwis. They had a different hero for the day in Ross Taylor who slammed the door shut on India firmly with a coruscating century (112 from 127balls). Taylor and Kane Williamson did not give Indian bowlers any chance after New Zealand lost its openers in quick succession.
It was evident that India went into the match with its spirits drooping despite the exciting tie in Auckland. Losing two wickets early then made even Rohit Sharma sober---in the first 20 overs, India could log only 60 runs. The takeaway for India from Hamilton should be the unbeaten sixth wicket partnership for 127 runs between Dhoni and Jadeja. They are still at it.
May be Dhoni and rest of the Indian team should take a look at the tattoo the new Australian Open champion Stanislas Wawrinka carries on his left forearm. The Samuel Beckett quotation reads “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” 
There cannot be a better read for a team that is on a losing streak. 

John Cheeran at Blogged