Vantage point

Saturday, March 27, 2004


Now that the minor matter of limited overs cricket is behind us, you can literally hear my lips smack as the test series is about to begin.

I have not been able to decide on one clear cut prediction for this series. I am sure that India will not lose. But whether we will win or whether the series will be drawn, is soemthing I am unable to pin down.

The main reason for this is Pakistan's form in test matches over the past year. They have beaten South Africa in Pakistan, and have beaten New Zealand in New Zealand. What this shows us is that Pakistanis can bat. Their middle order might not be as fancied as India and Australia, but evidently, they get the job done.

So the key to victory for India will be to do what we did in Australia. Bat to our potential. Dravid is in amazing form, and Tendulkar, even in the ODIs, seemed to be preparing for the test series. He was not playing any extravagant shots, and was batting within himself, even though he did score at run-a-ball. His Sydney innings are proof that he has finally developed an appetite for long innings, like Rahul Dravid. He can now tell himself "Me Not Getting Out!!", even if that means cutting down on his favourite shots. Sure, fans will crib and keep saying "Sachin is in bad form", like Chappel did even when Sachin was batting on 200 odd. Let them. What matters is the number of runs. In terms of exquisite shots, Sachin has nothing to prove to anyone. In terms of big scores, he does, a little bit. This is his turn. A double (and dare I say triple going by his Sydney form) century in Pakistan will be poetic justice, considering it is here that he started his career.

Virender Sehwag looks to be in dangerous touch, He has another opportunity to silence the sceptics like he did during the Australia series. Laxman, with his knock in the finals, has clearly sorted out the Pakistani attack. I am sure that at the end of series, Inzamam will call up Steve Waugh and both will cry about how there is no clear way of getting Laxman out.

A wild card, at least in the first test, could be Yuvraj Singh. He got a century in each innings in the Duleep Trophy final, so he has been in form in the longer version of the game. All his dismissals in the ODI series were self-destructs. It means that Pakistan does not necessarily have a plan to dismiss him early on. If he gets in, the Pakistan could really pay.

In all this, we forget two blokes. Akash Chopra, who will be looking for his first century. And Parthiv Patel, whom even Gillespie and Lee could not stop from scoring.

The Indian bowling is vastly under-rated. The great thing is, as I said in my pevious post, the bench strength. Even if some fast bowler gets injured, the replacement is often as good, if not better. Even in Australia, India did not miss Zaheer much. So the line-up of Zaheer, Agarkar and Irfan will be a handful for Pakistan.

Anil Kumble will be a big advantage, for the simple reason that hardly any Pakistanis have played him before. Facing Kumble for the first time, that too on a subcontinent pitch, is not easy. Kumble will also be looking to reach the 400 wicket mark in this series, i.e he would love to take 20 scalps in the 3 tests. I just hope that Parthiv does not continue with his "1 stumping miss per inning" streak.

Now coming to the Pakistani batting. Inzamam is in great form, and he is going to be a pain in the wrong places. Captaincy has pushed his batting up a notch. Youhanna is in bad form now, and a return to form could be problematic since he can play big knocks. However I am not too impressed with the others. I am going to stick my neck out and predict a failure for Yasir Hameed. I just don't think his technique is good enough. The biggest flaw is that he does not have any shots for the delivery pitched on off or even middle-off. The first time I saw him, he seemed like a right-handed Ganguly, because he cuts so well off the deliveries pitched outside off-stump. However, he does not have the cover drive, or the drive down the ground that Ganguly has for the aforementioned balls. I am sure that John Wright has picked this up.

Taufeeq Umar's technique reminds me a bit of Justin Langer, and it will be interesting to see if Agarkar can make an lbw-bunny of him like he did to Langer. However Imran Farhat seems to be someone we need to watch out for. In the little that I saw of him in the past few months, at elast I could not detect a clear-cut weakness. However I trust Wright must have. In fact, Wright's Kiwi mates must have given him a lot of tips about the Pakistani batting lineup. Misbah-Ul-Haq, I do nto know anything about.

The Pakistani bowling!

Now I don't know if you people have noticed this, but pacemen from the subcontinent tend to attack the stumps, while those from Aus-SA etc attack the "outside-off" line. This may be because of the lack of assistance from the conditions. So both the Indian and Pakistani bowlers often get wickets by attacking the stump. This is where I think the Indian batting has an edge. Our batsmen can handle that line better than most. This is the reason why New Zealand can not play Shoaib and Sami. They just aren't used to someone attacking the stumps all the time.

We are. Shoaib may have his "one session burst" which could prove to be match winning. But I doubt if he has enough ammunition to be series-winning against our batting. However he is an intelligent bowlers, and Sehwag should not play him like he played Lee. Lee is basically an airhead and if you have hit him early on, you will keep hitting him all the time. Lee lacks the class to "come back" in a later spell. With Shoaib it is not so. He bowls each spell with a different plan, and he is always working on a plan. If Sehwag handles Shoaib with a bit of respect, I think he can get bucketfuls of runs.

Kaneria is decent, but I see him meeting the same fate as Stuart Macgill. And I do hope they play Saqlain Mushtaq who claims to ahve developed a "teesra" or something. We have to take revenge for the 99 debacle.

I don't see any other batsman having a problem with the Rawalpindi Express. There wll be the occasional dismissal for sure, but I don't see any bowler "dominating" the Indian batting.

And finally another place where we hold the edge over Pakistan is the place where we held an edge over Australia. We have a better captain (Ganguly haters who might leave a list of his mistakes in the comments box please note - I have said "better" captain, not "all time best"). And in close test matches, especially in the subcontinent, a captain can win the game. It was purely Wasim's captaincy that won Pakistan the Chennai test when Sachin was dismissed, and then later, the Calcutta test. Inzy, like Waugh, bats beautifully under pressure, but can he lead the fielding team well under pressure? Nope, in that matter too he is the same as Waugh.

So while most of the times I foresee an Indian win, only 2 reasons bring the possibility of a drawn series to my mind. One is the batting of Inzamam and second is the "one session burst" of Shoaib Akhtar.

P.S - If the latest ad by BJP proxy "Kamakshi Education Society" is any indication, it means that either the BJP does not know the first thing abotu Indian cricket, or they think that Indian cricket fans are idiots. The ad shows the winning moments of the Lahore ODI and it says "If an Indian captain can win abroad, who needs a foreign captain? A foreign captain for 100 crore Indians? NEVER!". The ad which obviously targets Sonia Gandhi forgets that the Indian team transformed only after a "Gori ChamDi", John Wright was appointed as the coach.

P.P.S - Don't you just hate the Indian cricket media? The only people more idiotic than them, are the umpires who stood in the Australia Series. I hope the umpiring will be consistent this time round.

Thursday, March 25, 2004


The cocky Pakistani coach, at the start of the series had said "Pakistan's lanes are full of Irfan Pathans". It is this very dismissive attitude towards the Indian bowlers that has probably cost the Pakistanis the series. Irfan has picked up 8 wickets at a staggering average of 17. It is evident that Irfan is not as good as all the commentators make him out to be. He is even better!

Very few bowlers, at any stage in their careers, have such admirable control over swing. If headhunters from the English county season have been watching the young Baroda lad, they must be queueing up to sign him on.

What is ironic, is that Irfan was actually on the bench for the first 2 onedayers. In one way, he was fortunate, because those 2 matches were very high-scoring. But, that is besides the point. The ability to bench someone of Pathan's calibre shows that the second string attack has really done well over the past injury-plagued years. Just consider the number of bowlers we consider "First Eleven" level - Zaheer, Nehra, Agarkar, Pathan, Harbhajan, Kumble and Kartik. Balaji is the latest addition to this list. Besides this, Powar and Bhandari are also said to be good quality.

The bench in batting is no less confidence inspiring. Despite leaving out Laxman, we reached the World Cup final. Even now, we have people like Badani, Gambhir and Gavaskar sitting out.

Some might say keeping is a problem. I do not belong to the "Relieve Dravid from ODI Keeping" School of Thought. I think that if he could do it for 2 busy years, he can do it full time. Another thing I have noticed is that his catching in the slips to slow bowlers in test matches has really improved since he started keeping in ODIs.

In general, the current crop of Indian cricketers is amazing. We levelled the series against Australia in Australia despite the absence of our 2 frontline bowlers. And now we have beaten Pakistan in an ODI series, without 4 of our frontline bowlers.

The amazing thing is no one from this team looks like he will retire before the 2007 World Cup. Very heartening.


Not from the team, stupid. Drop him from captaincy. Inzamam is, in my opinion THE best batsman Pakistan has ever produced (yes, I do not forget the Mohammads, Abbases and Anwars).....and this is an opinion I have held even before this series, much to the chagrin of my Inzy-hating friends. However he is also the WORST captain Pakistan has ever had.

One mistake people make is that of assuming that a captain's job is just to step up his own individual performance. So if a dude plays lots of "Captain's innings", he is considered to be a good captain. That is downright wrong. A captain's main job is drawing up strategies, then deciding on tactics, and then selling them to his teammates. A captain's job is also to motivate his teammates when the chips are down.

Inzamam, at least so far, has proven to be miserable on those grounds. He can not marshall his bowling resources, gets field placings wrong, and has not been giving his batsmen a plan to stick to. His plan seems to be "I will get the runs and Shoaib will blast them apart."

My advice to the Pakistani cricket board would be to make someone else the captain. The two likely candidates seem to be Moin Khan and Yousuf Youhana.

Sunday, March 21, 2004


I like the new idea of penalising the captain if the overs don't get bowled in time. This means that it is not just the team bowling first that will get the stick, like it used to be.

However, in calculating the extra time taken, the match referee should take into consideration the extras as well. i.e, if the team bowled 30 extra deliveries, then the time considered should be the ideal one for 55 overs. The reasons are -

a) The captain should be punished if he took time in arranging the field etc. But the captain can't do much about wides and no balls being bowled.
b) The bowler and his team are already penalised for the extra deliveries by giving a run to the batting team. So penalising the captain again would amount to double punishment.

So I feel that the warning given to Inzamam after the first ODI was unfair. The ICC needs to do something about this rule.

Saturday, March 20, 2004

Another excerpt from the widely popular pages of the "Daily Some Achaar"(lip-smacking news that you can preserve)


Allahabad - After re-writing the history of India, researchers from the Allahabad University have cracked another case. This time they have managed to explain the ideas of Hitler in a completely new light.

Professor E. T. Haas, a German who has been in Allahabad for a short research stint, held a press conference to make this sensational revelation on Friday.

"Ladies and Gentlemen, I have come here to tell you the truth about Hitler." said Prof Haas. "A huge misconception needs to be cleared."

He went on to tell the scribes assembled that sometime in the early 1930s, Hitler was troubled because he had a problem of lice. Yes, lice, those tiny pesky creatures that inhabit unfortunate human heads. The Feuhrer would spend the whole night scratching. He tried various methods, but could not get rid of the lice. As a result, the lice soon spread, and soon the whole Nazi party had the same affliction.

Soon the whole German nation was scratching its head. The nation's productivity was hit, and it started descending into economic recession. Hitler decided that the best way to make Germany strong was to get rid of the lice.

He sent for his personal secretary, an attractive expatriate of Indian origins, Fraulein Zara C Yedee, whom he had taken a fancy to some months back. Zara was of a questionable intellect and her looks were the only reason Hitler had kept her as his secretary. He dictated to her a message which she was to convey to all the arms of the government.

It went - "The main obstacle in the path of Germany's progress are lice. In fact wherever there are lice in the world, there is a problem. All the lice in Germany need to be exterminated. That is the final solution. The German state must dedicate itself to eradication of lice." (translated to English)

Miss Yedee, however, was a bit weak in German. She did not understand the meaning of the German word "L�use", i.e "lice", and decided to ask her uncle. The dialogue went -

Zara: Chachajee, L�use ka kya matlab hai?

Uncle: L�use ka matlab hai "joo"

Zara(puzzled): Joo?

Uncle: Haan beta, joo.

Zara(comprehension dawning belatedly and wrongly): Ohhh, Jew!!!

Zara's dumbness has been mentioned before. She absent-mindedly replaced the word "lice" with "joo" and conveyed the order to everyone.

The rest, as they say is history.

Thus, gentlemen, it is not Hitler who is responsible for the holocaust. It is that Indian girl.

This reporter was the only one present at the press conference when Prof. Haas finished his story.

In another unrelated development, HRD Minister Murli Manohar Joshi today announced his intention to pass a legislation banning the use of the word "joo" to refer to lice in India. He said the association of the word had the potential of hurting the sentiments of Indian jews and the people of Israel, who are very important allies of India. The Ministry would convey the replacement word after deliberations with the Cabinet.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

I feel like spreading a rumour. Had spread one in the first year of engineering very effectively, when me and a couple of friends injected into the grapevine a false tidbit that went "Elements of Civil Engineering ka result sirf 2% laga hai!!!!". Considering that the subject was the easiest in all four years of engineering, we did not expect the rumour to go much farther than 2-3 blokes. However the whole city was abuzz with this ominous info within a week. I was pleased as punch about it and still consider it one of my greatest achievements. Too bad I can't put it on my resume. :(

Sunil Joshi, friend, classmate, wingmate, and alleged blogger got married yesterday. Here's wishing him and Aarti a happy married life.

For what it is worth, I announce the withdrawl of my support to Michael Schumacher in his bid for a 7th Championship.

The reason - Anti-Incumbency Factor. ;)

Am still on the fence about whom to support.

Fellows definitely ruled out - David Coulthard and Juan Pablo Montoya.


The worst dressed decade of all times has to be the 1980s. Movies and TV shows from that era, whether Indian or American, never fail to invoke disgust on account of that very reason. What were the people then thinking!!!?????

And if a breed of dogs ever belonged to the 80s, it is the Pomeranian. They are tiny, but not cute. They are furry, but not nice to touch. They have the most irritating yelp and the sort of nose that you want to step on. If India ever went to war with Korea and I was enlisted, sent on the front(!), captured by the enemy, and fed a dog, I would prefer that it be a pomeranian. For what better way to contribute to the world than to reduce its pom population?

If you dislike the breed as much as I do, you should have no trouble figuring out why the nickname for Britishers as a nation is "Poms".

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

A few thoughts about the ongoing series -

- Sami and Shoaib are two amazing bowlers. This is the first time I have properly observed Shoaib in about 3 years and I can confidently say that he is miles ahead of the other fast bowlers in world cricket. The closest competition is Sami. Lee is not even in the same league. He just lacks the range. What Sami and Shoaib need is a good bowling coach who will help cut out their errors.

- Ashish Nehra's split webbing is, in my opinion a blessing in disguise. A bowler as prone to breakdowns as him, better take a break now, during the pyjama phase of the series. That way he will be fit for the more important test series.

- This is an ODI series after all. It can only get exciting up to a certain point. It lacks the more glorious uncertainties of test cricket. Which is why this TEN Sports wrangle hurts me so much. It means I am missing out on the more lip-smacking prospect of Sri Lanka and Australia battling in the test arena. Every day as I read of a dramatic day's play from the Island, I curse Bukhatir. It has been ages since I have seen Warne bowl. Waaaaaaaahhhhhhhh!!! :(

- Yasir Hamid is a decent bat. His innings, according to me, was more responsible for the 329 rather than Afridi's.

- Tendulkar still can't finish ODI matches.

- In places like Australia, New Zealand, South Africa etc, a middle order that features both Laxman and Dravid seems formidable. However on the absolutely flat 300-plus-everyday subcontinent tracks, they are going to act as dead weight. 60 off 70 balls is a brilliant knock overseas. But here, it means that 10 balls were wasted. And more often than not, that is what makes the difference. Even if someone does waste those balls, there should be someone who makes up for them. So if a Laxman wastes those balls, Sehwag or Yuvraj should make up. The way Afridi made up. But yesterday, we lost the match because of Ganguly's 15 off 38. The 23 balls wasted were not compensated since Sehwag and Yuvraj did not click.

- When every 300-plus chase gets close, it stops becoming interesting. 2 matches into the series and I am already bored. "Team X chase/almost chase 300 plus". Ho hum, so what's new?

- Powar is a promising bloke. Balaji's cool head more than makes up for his limited talents.

- Zaheer is obviously not a 100%. Why is he playing pyjama cricket? Send him home, and call him back for the test series. No one remembers who wins one day series. It is the tests that matter. Even now, no one is talking about how Australia whipped us in the one day series. They are talking about how we gave them a hiding in the tests.

- Miandad is a funny guy. :)

- This Indian team has fighting spirit. Despite what happened eysterday, they are not chokers.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004


In most issues, I prefer a Libertarian-ish solution. However I am not a full scale Libertarian yet, because I don't subscribe to some of the views that Libertarians hold. One view, though not stated in as many terms, is that Libertarianism is the panacea to all evils. Here I disagree based on many examples I have seen in real life. One eample is the mess that the Cable TV industry in India finds itself in.

And as news of a blackout of the Indo-Pak series by Cable Operators fills the air, I feel like looking at this issue in greater detail. A conversation with Yazad is basically what got me thinking.

Let us look at the cable industry through the 90s.

-There was no governmental entity having a monopoly.
-The entry barriers were fairly low. Licensing was not a major issue, and anyone who could buy the equipment could become a cable operator.
-That is was quite easy to arrange for funds for the equipment is clear from the profile of the cable operators. Look at cablewallahsin your neighbourhood. Most of them are lower middle class types who started off in a small garage or a ramshackle office.

The above points are what the Libertarians want. Less governmental meddling, level field, etc. And in the first few years, the response was the way it would be in a perect competition scenario. Hundreds of cable operators sprung up all over the place. In my neighbourhood, at one point of time, there were 3 cable operators and you could choose between them. Prices were reasonably low, and the concept of pay channels and bouqueting were not there.

Then in the late 90s, a few things happened

- Consolidation started among cable operators. The cable operators started "merging". Big players like Hathway and Citicable entered the scene, and started "acquiring" small players. This led to regional monopolies. The same cable operator who was courteous a few years back for the fear of losing you to a competitor now became cocky and the service quality declined.
- Consolidation started among TV channels. Firstly, they all started going "pay". i.e subscribers had to pay a separate charge for a TV channel. It was started by ESPN, who had the rights to many sought after cricket series. It started with the 1996 tour of England by the Indian cricket team. Ever since then this drama is repeated whenever there is a big sporting event. This time it is the turn of TEN Sports who have hiked their fees from Rs 14 to Rs 32 per subscriber for the Indo-Pak series.
- Secondly, TV channels started forming cartels or bouquets. So if I am someone who took a cable connection, just to watch Star World, I could not subscribe to it alone. The broadcasters sold channels as a "bouquet". So if I wanted to watch Star World, I would have to buy the 10-channel bouquet of Star, and pay for 9 channels that I have no desire to watch.
- Vertical integration started happening. Citi and Hathway, the big players were associates of the broadcasters who offered the bouquets. Citi is a company owned by Zee, and Hathway, I think has some Star stake in it. Now what this did is that it gave the broadcasters means to manipulate the wavelengths on which channels were shown. Not all TVs in India have the "s band". So if you show certain channels on that band, the viewership decreases and the advertisers are nothappy. So a Citi cablewallah would put star channels on the inaccessible s band. All the consumers could do was complain and crib. They could not change operators because there were now regional monopolies.
- The government said that it is the job of the cable operators to collect entertainment tax. This is in line with established practices. After all, the movie theatres collect entertainment tax, since they provide the service. The government does not stand outside the theatre and collect taxes from each viewer. However the cablewallahs had a problem with this.

So exactly why did all this happen?

->Consolidation among cable operators is said to have happened because of two-fold reasons.

-One is sheer economies of scale. It is better to have one central control-room, which accounts bulk of the expenses, than to have 500 different control rooms for the city.
-The second reason is supposed to be muscle power. Some cable operators are aid to have given in to big players because they were threatened. The big players would threaten the small fish that they would destroy their equipment.

Now the second reason is as old as the hills in any industry. I fail to see how that would be a stronger reason for monopolies in just this sector. Intimidation and threats are a sad part of life, but can not be said to be the primary reasons behind the consolidation.

->Consolidation among broadcasters was not caused by threats at all. It was caused by business interests. By bouqueting channels, broadcasters were in effect "subsidising" the lesser channels.

->SELECTION AND CONSUMPTION BY DIFFERENT PARTIES - This in my view is one of the major flaws in the process. Let me illustrate this with an example. Suppose I want to get a cellphone connection. I will get brochures from all the companies, look at their rates, their services, then select one. After selection, I will use the cell and if I don't like the service or I find it too high, I will shift to another cell company. The cell company knows that if it makes people like me unhappy, I will make another selection and they will lose a customer. Thus I have a "bargaining power".
Now I want to watch the India-Pak series.

Can I select a cable operator? No, because of the monopolies. So for the sake of libertarian argument, we assume that these monopolies were brought about by threats, intimidation, etc etc. i.e they can be blamed on the "state". So I asuem I have many cable operators to choose from.
Can I choose the TV channel? No!!!! It has to be Ten Sports. And whichever cable operator I choose will have to pay Rs 32 as against Rs 14 to the channel.

Who chose TEN Sports? Not me, the consumer. It was chosen by the Pakistan Cricket Board. And they are not consumers. They do not treat my criteria of service quality, subscription price etc as important. For them the only important criterion is the money that the channel pays.

So as opposed to the cell phone situation, I have no "bargaining power", since the selecton and consumption is by different parties.

(to be contd in a couple of days. Please leave your comments.)

Monday, March 01, 2004


Room 1151, IIM Lucknow

This room where I spent the past one year, is a room that has given me more memories than I could ever have imagined.

I came to IIM, not knowing what to expect. I go back taking with me somethings that are beyond my wildest dreams. Life has a habit of springing surprises on you, pleasant and unpleasant. The past two years have seen a procession of pleasant surprises.

As I took a walk around the campus yesterday, it sunk in that it was probably the last time I was doing so as a student. There are so many things about life in IIML that I take for granted. Walking back to the world outside will be like a wake-up call. I descend from paradise into the real world.

However this very paradise has prepared me to face any challenges that I might face.

When I came here in June 2002, I remember telling a friend "You know, in 4 years you get attached to your engineering college. I doubt if we can feel the same way about IIMs since we just spend 2 hectic years here."

I can't remember when I have been more wrong. Today I feel more strongly connected to IIML than I ever felt to COEP ( it is not just because i am connected to the IIML server one last time while making this post ;-)).

Goodbye, IIML. Your verdant campus will always remain a part of me, as will Room 1151.