Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Is anti-incumbency working against Pinarayi?

By John Cheeran

Considering the outright rejection of Congress and UPA across India, chief minister Oommen Chandy and KPCC president V M Sudheeran can console themselves for avoiding a rout and keeping the party intact in the state. The Congress had to battle anti-incumbency both at the Centre and state.
The fact that UPA’s six ministers from the state, five of them Congressmen, in the fray – Shashi Tharoor (Thiruvananthapuram), K V Thomas (Ernakulam), K C Venugopal (Alappuzha), Kodikunnil Suresh (Mavelikkara), Mullapally Ramachandran (Vadakara) and E Ahamed (Malappuram) – have won is important.
What saved the day for Chandy, who had turned this election into a referendum on the performance of his government, was the fear of Narendra Modi among minorities and the anti-incumbency mood against CPI(M) state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan (who is leading the party since 1998) among non-partisan voters.
Despite winning an additional seat (LDF has won four seats more) compared to 2009, for the CPM the results have come as a dampener since it reveals the party’s inability to turn the nationwide anti-UPA mood into votes. Remember, CPM lost Vadakara, despite a ‘faction-less’ party and V S Achuthanandan’s new-found bonhomie with Vijayan.
It’s clear that UDF received the support of Christian and Muslim communities apart from retaining its goodwill among upper caste Hindus. But Chandy would do well to remember that the minority support comes with a caveat — defeats in Kannur, Idukki, Chalakudy and Thrissur prove they can be tough bargainers.
The big message is, however, that Modi’s version of Hindutva is ready to swamp the state’s traditional Hindu parties – CPM and CPI.
Read the full story

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Accidental Prime Minister Must Speak Up Now

By John Cheeran

So who did not know that Manmohan Singh was an accidental prime minister? Everyone, including Dr Singh, knew it. Manmohan Singh’s strength--that he had no political constituency of his own--was his apparent weakness. Only Dr Singh could have overcome it, no number of wise men could have worked a transformation.
Dr Singh was no stranger to Congress when he was given the nation’s reins by Sonia Gandhi. He had been working with the party since 1991 and should have known how much independence and power he would be rationed out by Ms Gandhi.
Much as Dr Singh’s former information adviser Sanjaya Baru laments in his new book The Accidental Prime Minister—The Making and Unmaking of Manmohan Singh (Published by Penguin | Viking, Price Rs 599, Pages 301) how the prime minister frittered away the opportunity to assert himself, you cannot be blind to political reality.
In 2004, there was no one else in Congress party who had Dr Singh’s qualities of competence and compliance. As is public knowledge, without Baru saying so, Sonia was certainly not prepared to name Pranab Mukherjee as prime minister or deputy prime minister.
A disillusioned Baru, to buttress his argument, recalls that in 2011 Mukherjee told him--by that time Dr Singh’s stature had taken a severe beating thanks to the 2G scam and policy paralysis--that the image of the government and the country is inextricably linked to the image of the prime minister. Baru writes: “With the emasculating of the prime minister, not just Dr Singh himself, but his government and, ultimately, the country, became the losers.” 
Despite the PMO’s and Congress party’s outlandish reactions that termed Baru’s book as “fiction” the author has tried to ‘project’ Dr Singh’s image as a competent prime minister during UPA-1, with him being around as information adviser. 
At many levels, this is a kind and considerate account of Dr Singh. Baru reminds us that Dr Singh is the only Indian prime minister not from the Nehru-Gandhi family to have served two terms in office. But the raison d’etre for The Accidental Prime Minister is the public perception that Dr Singh accomplished this feat through unquestioning submissiveness. And Baru’s book confirms the public perception.  
Where Baru scores his points is when he writes that Dr Singh ignored his advice to stand on his own feet, especially not contesting the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, which would have added to his political legitimacy. It was, in fact, a piece of very sound advice but Baru unrealistically bet too high on Dr Singh. Now it is a moot question that with Baru as ‘adviser’ (as a Sanjaya) to the PM (as he was pitching for), would Dr Singh’s second term would have been any different?
Read the full story at 

Friday, March 28, 2014

When There Is A God In Every Stone

By John Cheeran

Will reading a Pakistani writer’s novel be sedition in Narendra Modi’s India? Not yet. Reading Pakistan-born British writer Kamila Shamsie’s brilliant novel A God In Every Stone may help you know how to remove your blindfold and see your place in this world. Shamsie excavates memories of a terrible massacre on April 23, 1930 in the Storyteller’s Street in Peshawar and brings alive Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, the Frontier Gandhi, who urged Pashtuns in NWFP to break their addiction to violence and revenge and hold on to righteousness and patience, instead of embarking on jihad.

In an interview with John Cheeran, Shamsie says space between dreams and reality is more contingent on economics than geography. Excerpts:

Q: Is the title--A God In Every Stone- provocative, and blasphemous? You write “In an age when the people of this region had the vision to find the god in every stone.”

No, neither, it's metaphorical. The idea is that things of beauty and terror can be found everywhere. And of course it also gestures to Peshawar's ancient (Gandhara) past which is an important part of the novel via the story of the archaeologists.
Q: What is this book about--love, loyalty, pride, honour or nationalism?
It's about characters and place, primarily. All these other ideas are layered in--the question of loyalty is probably the idea that runs most deeply through the book.
Q: You write so touchingly about Peshawar. When was the last time you were in the Story Teller’s Street?

Two years ago, which is also the only time I've ever been there. The Peshawar of the early 20th century is one I discovered primarily through books, photographs and archive material.
Q: Does it alarm you that people from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh are still migrating to the UK and the West?

Why would that alarm me? As someone who lives in London I'm reassured to know that the people who are the life blood institutions such as the National Health Service are continuing to migrate there.
Q: You write: ”The space between dreams and reality was wider in India than anywhere else in the world.” Is it still so, in India as well as in Pakistan?

It's a line from Viv Spencer who sees Peshawar through an Imperialist glow and generally says things I would never say or think myself. I think the space between dreams and reality is more contingent on economics than geography.

Q: What’s more dearer to you now—the British Passport or the original one, the Pakistani Passport?

The blessing of being a citizen of two nations that allow dual citizenship is that you don't have to think in those terms. One passport stands in for what I was born in to and have known and been my whole life; the other stands in for what I've chosen to acquire. And at the end of the day, they're travel documents which are primarily to be viewed in a practical rather than emotional light.

Q: Of course, you didn’t think about the Peshawar massacre at Camden Hall, the other day….

Ha. I had a flicker of such a thought at the start of proceedings when a photographer handed me a Union Jack. But looking around the room of people from around the world who were there to become citizens was also a reminder of how much Britain has changed since its days of Empire.

Q: Do you think, there will come a day when an Indian writer can settle in Karachi and a Pakistani author in Mumbai to pursue their careers?
You do already have a handful of people who cross that border and make a new life - usually via marriage rather than for any other reason. So it's not something we have to look to the future to imagine. But my understanding is it's a position fraught with insecurity and red tape. I'd like to say that will disappear - and that there will be routes in other than marriage - but I don't see it happening any time soon. Still, history has a way of surprising us.

Q: How difficult was excavating memories about April 23, 1930?

The British were meticulous record keepers and those records are now in the British Library. So all the official correspondence is there, along with the official enquiry report (including verbatim transcripts of witness statements). Additionally there's the Congress enquiry report with its hundreds of eye witness testimonies. It took a fair amount of work to read through all that material and try to piece together, as far as possible, what really happened - but actually finding the material involved no difficulty at all.
Q: Frontier Gandhi Abdul Ghaffar Khan makes only a brief appearance in A God In Every Stone though his presence is strongly felt. In what has become Pakistan now, what relevance has he?
He appears for about a page, when Qayyum goes in search of him. I wanted to ensure he wasn't an absence in the book. In KP (the former NWFP) he's still widely revered - the most visible reminder of that was when Malala referred to him as one of her heroes while addressing the UN. In other parts of Pakistan, though, he's largely absent from the collective imagination.
But of course he's very relevant as a heroic figure who stood for non-violence, education for both men and women, and a resistance to damaging ideologies.
Q: Do you think reading a Pakistani-origin author’s novel will be considered sedition in Narendra Modi’s India? Recently, Kashmiri students at a private university in Meerut were charged with sedition after they cheered Pakistan during a cricket match, which India lost.
That's a really bleak picture you're painting there. I've been in India a handful of days so it would be silly of me to try and make any kind of political predictions - I certainly hope you're wrong.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Comrades, don’t bury the idea of revolution

By John Cheeran
A mandatory period of mourning follows when an idea gets buried, given that it was an idea, and not petty posturing for selfish ends. What does the silence in the V S Achuthanandan camp signify after the leader has accepted the inevitable that there is no life after CPM and outside of it? Is it an endorsement of the last of the communists' meek surrender? Or is the betrayal too shocking that his faithful have lost the will to react and fight on their own?
It is important that after VS disowned his populist political positions within the party favouring Pinarayi Vijayan, no one has come forward to expose the hollow nature of the veteran leader’s botched revolution. T P Chandrasekharan’s wife Rema has said she will not disown Achuthanandan despite his opportunistic shift. Does she have a choice?
It is quite understandable that CPM and its official mouthpiece can’t stomach a critical column directed against the party and its new poster boy and take refuge in preaching what media should do or not. The taming of Achuthanandan is the lone victory that CPM can boast of in recent times and it suits Deshabhimani’s agenda. Defending the reformed leader is CPM’s duty but is this dirge, rage, relief or glee?

Saturday, March 22, 2014

VS or the art of having a happy funeral

By John Cheeran

V S Achuthanandan has seen the writing on the wall. It’s every man’s right to have an honourable funeral. And there is no harm in trying to ensure that it takes place appropriately. The veteran CPM leader’s recent rethink on his position within the party and, largely, in Kerala civil society makes it clear that he wants to say his farewell as a good, disciplined CPM member, if not as politburo member, and not as a good communist, an epithet he used to describe the slain rebel T P Chandrasekharan. Those who were waiting all these years for VS to leave the CPM fold and lead the revolutionary charge have been left disappointed. The unkindest cut has been in describing Revolutionary Marxist Party (RMP) as the tail of the Congress.
But how can VS be blamed for realizing that there is little time left for grand posturing and giving shape to the perfect communist party in the world? It’s remarkable that VS has revisited his controversial positions regarding the party state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan’s “incorruptibility” at a time when an even greater ex-communist came knocking at the CPM door, almost pleading for re-entry. K R Gowri, when she was expelled from CPM, was even a bigger star in 1994 than VS is now. 

Read the full story 

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.
Read the full story

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.

Read the full story

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.

Read the full story at 

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.

Read the full story

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. 
Read the full story

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. 
Read the full story

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. 
Read the full story

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. 

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?
John Cheeran at Blogged