Vantage point

Sunday, April 25, 2004


I can't believe I am posting this so late, but please go to this post and vote for me -

APRIL'S BLOG MELA at .Shanti's blog.

I am trailing Aadisht by just 8 votes, and he has already won it once. So please let the anti-incumbency factor work in my favour :)

If I win I promise more updates of the Daily Someachaar.


Not in the Lok Sabha election, but the blogmela. Amazon gift certificate ka sawaal hai yaar!!


- From an economic POV, I don't see any difference between the Congress and the BJP. In general, for a quasi-Libertarian like me, the best party is one which interferes the elest with business. I like parties committed to reform and getting over their socialist past. In that sense, I see no difference between the Congress and the BJP. I see no die-hard socialists in the Congress who will revert back to the License-Permit-Quota raj. In fact Jairam Ramesh, head of the Congress Economics think tank is a pro-reforms guy. If anything, the NDA has more people with such a bent of mind. We have seen the havoc Murli Manohar Joshi has created in what one would have thought was a harmless ministry. He has fingered the only government institutions that are working. I shudder to think what would happen some years later when ABV and LKA have left the scene and MMJ is the senior-most BJP leader! All members of the JDU are socialists, notably Fernandes. Then there is the Shivsena which opposes any reforms in the labour laws.

Yes, India is shining. But it is shining because of the people, and not the government. If reforms are to be credited, then they were started by Rajiv and continued by Rao. In those days, BJP leaders held huge protest marches to protest India's entry into the WTO.

The only contribution to the "shining" of India from the government has been from Arun Shourie who is disinvesting with a vengeance. If his influence within the party grows, I will become an ardent BJP supporter. However, it does not seem like Shourie represents the BJP philosophy. So I don't see how they are very different from the Congress.

In fact I see the Congress' response to the BJP's India Shining campaign as a huge marketing blunder. They should have said "India is shining, but mainly because of us. And we will make it shine even more."

The shine in India is mainly driven by superb growth in a few states. The states that have been shining the most are Maharashtra, Karnataka, Delhi and Andhra Pradesh. The Chief Ministers in the first three states are of the Congress. The party shouldhave pitched this fact.

Even about Kashmir, they should have pointed out that were it not for their magnanimous gesture of allowing a PDP Chief Minister, despite being the single largest party, the "healing touch" factor that has improved the situation in Kashmir would not have been possible.

And about the way that the BJP is hailing vajpayee for resumption of cricketing ties with Pakistan, theCongress should ask that if the BJP had severed the ties in the first place, how is their resumption an achievement?

Unfortunately, the Congress think tank has bungled up. By the time Sam Pitroda came with the "India shining started because of Rajiv's reforms", ti was too late. We had ridiculous ads like "Congress puraney din waapas laaney waali hai." This gives one an impression of the Congress being more leftist than it is. Stupid suicidal move.

The Congress, after this election, should sit and do some thinking about their party's identity. Even now, they have a better long term future than the BJP. You take away Atal's moderate face, and there is not much that BJP has. Folks like Advani and Joshi leading the party will not get them as many allies. And on its own, the BJP still does not have enough to get more than 200 seats.

The states where BJP can capture seats on its own are Gujarat, Rajasthan, MP, UP, Chattisgarh, Jharkhan, Uttaranchal and Delhi. In other states like Maharashtra, Andhra, Orissa, Bengal, Bihar, Punjab, Haryana, Tamilnadu etc, they rely mainly on strong regional parties, who are on board the NDA only thanks to Atal's moderate face and statesman image. The supporters of these regional parties will stop supporting them if they are seen supporting someone like Advani or Joshi.

The Congress on the other hand, had 15 Chief Ministers till last year. This means they have a considerable national presence. On its own, the Congress still has a good presence in Punjab, Delhi, Uttaranchal, Rajasthan, MP, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Chattisgarh, Tamilnadu, Andhra, Karnataka, and Kerala. Plus the Congress has an edge in the North-east and Kashmir.

If it gets its act together, it can be back in power in the next general elections. They basically need to strengthen their presence in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. If they can't get seats on their own, they should at least form strong alliances.

And as much as we hate the fact, politics in India(or anywhere in the world for that matter) is a game of personalities. It is not the BJP's ideology or the Shivsena's ideology which gets it votes. It is Atal and Thackeray. So the Congress needs to get good personalities to have a broadbased lineup. Sonia's children would really do that. The Congress should also groom Sheila Dikshit for a bigger role on the national scene. They should convince Pawar and Mamta to return to the Congress, and give promising leaders like Gehlot more visibility.

Anyway, moving on to other thoughts -

* I have been impressed with Govinda. For a star whose films were full of melodrama, his campaign has been very dignified. He speaks marathi and hindi very well. he is not making any personal atatcks on Ram Naik. He is not making ridiculously lofty promises like "I will make this constituency a Paris!!", as Vinod Khanna had done. He is not using lines from his movies, or putting up an act on stage like the garam dharams. In his interviews, he has shown good knowledge of politics, as opposed to other "stars" who are completely ignorant. Of all the filmstars I have seen entering the electoral battle, Govinda has seems the most acceptable. Of course,this probably has a lot to do with the fact that he is fighting from a completely urban constituency. But nevertheless, Govinda's conduct and his views have been the diagonal opposites of what they seemed in films. He may not be able to defeat Ram Naik, but he certainly is here to stay.

* Why has Sushma Swaraj not been given a ticket? The BJP is completely wasting her. Last year they pitted her against Sonia in Bellary, almost a sureshot defeat. this time they haven't fielded her. I can understand not fielding people like Mahajan and jaitley, whose electoral successis highly suspect, but Swaraj is a winner in most seats in the country. Why keep her out of the fray?

* If Naidu is defeated, as the exit polls indicate, does that mean Hyderabad's bid for the Formula-1 GP loses steam? Will Mumbai-Pune get a walkover? :)

* I saw a few candidates giving interviews on TV even as voting was going on. Does this not amount to violation of the Code of Conduct which says that campaigning should stop 48 hours prior to polling?


Finally, I have indelible ink on my left index finger. After 2 previous futile attempts, during the last Lok Sabha elections and the Corporation elections, I finally succeeded. When I turned 18, I had stood in a long queue outside a registration camp and given the necessary documents. Yet, my name did not feature in the rolls. The next year, some government servants were making rounds of our houses, during which I gave them my name again, this time before the PMC elections. Again, the same story.

This time I had almost given up hope, because this time too, my name was taken by fellows doing rounds of my house. I went to the polling booth where my parents and everyone else from my building was listed. Nope, name not there. I went to another polling booth. Sorry, ain't happening, they said.

I felt like giving up, but then one fellow said that I should go to a computerised booth near Paud Phata where they have records of all Pune voters. So I reached there, and voila!! My name was listed in a booth about a km from my house.

All this happened before 7:30 a.m. in the morning. I reached the booth wearing a t-shirt and sweatpants. the polling officer gave me a disapproving look asif to say "Couldn't you at least dress up for voting?". A lady marked my finger with the indelible ink, and I pressed the relevant button on the sleek looking EVM.

I have made my first official contribution to the electoral process, despite the government machinery making it difficult for me. :)

Thursday, April 22, 2004

The Daily Someachaar has been updated!


Young Vandals Pardoned on Claiming Brigade Membership!!

World's Top Streaker Disappointed With Kumbh, says Sadhus Stole Thunder

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

There is justice in the world!! :)

ICC outlaws Murali's doosra

Now let's see how many tests Sri lanka manage to win.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Yup, I got an invite for Gmail, and I have accepted it. :)

I completely agree with Ponting.

The only scenario in which I see the record being broken is, if a team bats first, for about 7 sessions, and declares at 650 or so. The second team does not wilt and also puts up a big score.......and the match is a draw anyway. Only then will 400 be challenged. But not many captains will let a first innings scorer playfor so long.

Incidentally both of Lara's triple hundreds have been in matches that were drawn.

Sunday, April 18, 2004

Double Standards?

I have always been appalled by the safron brigades philistines like VHP, Bajrang Dal and the RSS who seem to have nothing better to do than whip up the Hindutva bogey. What do they get by opposing secularism ad hoc, I wonder.

And yet, there are some incidents which make me realise in some measure, the reason behind how they can derive support from the masses. The strongest reason is not some belief in the superiority of the Hindu religion as one might imagine. Most of the masses side with the Saffron because of what they perceive as "appeasement" of the minorities. They claim that even the media supports this.

A few years back M F Hussain painted nudes of some Hindu goddesses. The Shivsena did not like this and told him to close down the exhibition. He refused, citing "freedom of expression", and I found it quite reasonable. How can any group tell him what he can and can not do, I thought. This was followed by "direct action" on part of the Shivsena. They attacked the exhibition and made it shut shop.

The media went berserk, talking about how the values like freedom of expression were being compromised by some fanatics. Hussain himself crowed a lot as well. I was on Hussain's side then, and in debates with my friends, attacking the Shivsena for its retrograde actions. At that time I read Thackeray's interview in the paper in which he said "Would Hussain dare to insult Muslim or Christian religious feelings like this? And if he did, would they not react the same way? Why did we ban satanic Verses after all?".

I saw this as the standard pathetic Thackeray ploy of saying "We are evil? well, they are more evil!!"

Now consider what happened a few days back. Hussain's movie Meenaxi is a story which does not even remotely insult Islamic figures, like Rushdie's banned novel does. The All India Ulema however came out in the press lambasting the movie because of a song which mentions something like "let there be light". This hurt their sentiments because the movie shows it as referring to the heroine, while the Quran uses the term to refer to Allah.....or something like that.

All in all, a petty and tame objection.

What does Hussain to in reaction? Withdraws the movie from the theatres!! Nary a murmur about his freedom of expression. No condemnation of fanatics being intransigent.

What shocks even more is the fact that the media too has merely reported the issue and moved on with its life. Hardly any editorials, op-eds, columns, talk shows and all discussing how religious fanatics are undermining Indian secularism. Not even 1% of the reaction that followed the Sena reaction.

Double standards? Some might say "The Sena's violent methods are what we criticised. The Ulema just expressed their displeasure vocally". OK, if that is the counter-argument, read on.

For the past few months some lunatics that go by the name "Sambhaji Brigade" have been creating a lot of fuss about a book some American called James Laine wrote. This book apparently makes some pretty lewd statements about Shivaji and Jijamata. The Sambhaji Brigade has ransacked a few offices and houses belonging to Indians who helped Laine write the book.

This is a pretty stupid reaction by some people and it deserves to be condemned. The media has been at the forefront, with editorials, op-eds, columns and talk shows galore, all tearing apart the extremists.

However a couple of years ago, some Muslim youths in Solapur took out a protest march against American author Jerry Falwell making derogatory comments about the Prophet Mohammad. The march was accompanied by a bandh and they vented their anger by attacking shops that were open and vehicles that dared to come out on the streets.

As far as I know not a single Indian has anything to do with Falwell's book. Yet this Moplah-rebellion-like attack on people who had nothing to do with it.

As despicable as the Sambhaji Brigade actions, you think?

Well, the media certainly does not think so. The media at that time completely ignored the stupidity of protest marches and bandhs in India. I hardly saw any editorials or talk shows criticising the action of Solapur Muslims. The only columns written were by the rightist columnists, and hardly any Muslim columnist condemned the bandh.

Such examples make it easier for me to understand why the Saffronites draw big crowds.

Friday, April 16, 2004


Following up on the initiative taken by Nilu, I present my World 11. The parameters for choosing this team are -

1. It should be an all surface 11. They should be able to play on any surface, from the dust bowl of Ahmedabad to the zippy track at Durban to the spongy drop-ins at Hamilton. This applies more to batsmen than to bowlers.
2. The players are selected on their form in the last couple of years, and backed by their overall class.
3. I just thought of the best player for every position. Did not think too much about how all countries should be represented, or whether some teams are getting represented too much.

And here it is

1. Hayden - Of course!
2. Sehwag - Proved his ability to handle all attacks with consummate ease, in matches that are alive
3. Dravid - A number 3 should be one who stays there in case of an early wicket. Ponting and Lara, the other contenders, in my opinion give too many chances early on. Besides, with the team filled with stroke makers, we need a sheet anchor. Another thing is, Ponting is not yet proven to be good against spin. His failures in India 2001 and Sri Lanka last month show this. Even during his double tons against India he had too many plumb shouts against Kumble which were turned down by Bucknor. He also got 2-3 stumping reprieves.
4. Tendulkar- Won't even explain
5. Kallis - Usually bats at 4. But would do a good job at 5 too. His bowling is good too.
6. Laxman - Again, a proven all-surface-all-attack player. I still have my doubts regarding Martyn. And Thorpe....please. Not good enough against spin.
7. Gilchrist - Again, of course!
8. Warne - The best! What sews up his selections is the fact that Viru, Sachin and Laxman are in this team and not facing him. :)
9. Pollock - On Nilu's blog first i chose Pathan. But on further consideration, I realised that Pollock is a more effective bowler.
10. Shoaib - Except for the best batting lineup, all else have struggled against him. Even Australia.
11. Muralitharan - Kallis gives us a third seamer. Warne and Murali bowling in tandem.....just imagine.

And yes the umpires - Aleem Daar and Rudy Koertzen. Third umpire - Anyone who is not West Indian. :)
Match referee - G Vishwanath


It took over a decade, but it tastes sweeter than anything. An overseas series win, that too in Pakistan.

Rahul Dravid's innings was like that of an Australian. By this I mean that he kept getting chances, either from the fielders or the umpires, every 50 runs or so. That does not take anything away from the magnitude of his knock. Imagine, this is his 3rd double ton in the last 9 test matches. In fact, all his centuries this season have gone on to become double centuries. With at least 5-6 years of cricket left in him, I can bet that he will overtake whatever tally of double tons Lara end up ith, and may even have a shot at Bradman's record.

Those who look for dark linings to silver clouds will obviously lambast the 7 catches that went down in the first session. Let these cribbers crib in their "cricketing nirvana". What we need to look at is that this was just a bad session. We have not dropped any catches in Australia, nor in the first two tests, and this has been an outstanding catching unit. Sometimes even the best fielders are entitled to bad days, and that is what we had today. What is important is that the catches didn't cost us much, because our bowlers bowled superbly. Like the Multan declaration issue, we the fans need to get over the catches and look atthe bigger picture - INDIA WON!!!

It was a complete domination by the Indian team, and though the margins of 3-2 and 2-1 give one an impression that it was a close affairs, we all know it was not. Like Australia, we lost only one session while batting. And like Australia, our inability to polish off the tail compounded the damage caused by the one session.

In my view, there are two things the Indian team needs to really work hard on.

One is dismissing the tail. There needs to be a clear cut strategy, different from that applied to the top order. The only Indian bowler I have seen in the past few years, capable to knocking off the tail, is Zaheer Khan, with his accurate bouncers and yorkers. But in his absence, we have almost always had problems with it, unless the opposition tail commits suicide like at Pindi. Other bowlers need to learn this from him.

Another area where we should work hard is the batting approach on seaming tracks. We often suffer collapses on such tracks, and when we don't suffer collapses, it is almost always due to Dravid's resilience. In Sehwag, Tendulkar, Laxman, Ganguly and Yuvraj, we have attacking players who prefer playing off the backfoot. This often leads to collapses like the ones seen in Nw Zealand, Melbourne and Lahore. Tendulkar's defensive approach of late has not really paid off. The Indian team needs to do somethign else. One way out could be that Ganguly come at 4 in such scenarios, if Dravid is dismissed, and play a placid knock. It worked in Australia when he came out at 4 when a wicket fell late in the day.

Spaking of Ganguly, if it comes to choosing between Ganguly and Yuvraj, I would go with Ganguly, even if he was not the captain. This is because Yuvi seems discomfited against good spin bowling, and this discomfiture is more than what Ganguly faces against shortpitched fast bowling. And anyway, like Steve Waugh, I don't think ganguly has been dismissed by the short stuff in test matches. In ODIs, yes, a few times, because he has to play his shots, but as his Aussie tour showed, he can duck and weave if the pacers are pitching it short, with the occasional hook and pull.

Pakistan needs to do a lot. Their batting is in absolute shambles. What is worrisome is their technique appears flawed. What is even more worrisome is that it took an injury to get Asim kamal into the team. The first thing that struck me about him when I saw him during the second test is that his batting style resembles Lara a lot, what with the high backlift and the elegant flourish. But he is also blessed with a good eye and good technique. The calibre of the Pakistani selectors and team management is to be questioned if they can not recognise the promise in this man. Though Yassir Hameed is good to watch, personally I would place Kamal far ahead.

The Pakistani bowling....I have already dwelt upon in a previous post. Imagine a Pakistan attack that can't get any lateral movement. Even Umer Gul, I would like to watch on a flat track before going gaga over.

Another aspect I would like to comment on is commentary. :)

Rameez Raja was his usual wannabe-suave idiotic self.

Dean Jones is one of the better commentators inspite of being an Australian. If Channel Nine had any sense they would fire Bill Lawry and Tony Greig and sign on Deanno.

Michael Slater was decent, but nothing special.

Ian Chappel in the early part of the series was his usual efficient, knowledgeble and witty self. He has also gotten over the grudge he carried for Ganguly.

Sanjay Manjrekar is a genius when it comes to making observations about Tendulkar, but otherwise, he is very tepid. Gimme Shastri anyday.

Robin Jackman was okayish throughout, but he came up with the wisecrack of the series when he said "there is a misfielding epidemic going around, and it is NOT catching!!".

Navjyot Sidhu was his usual irritating self. His duels with Rameez Raja were beyond ridiculous. Sidhu would often make Rameez shut up by pushing him away. Well, someone had to do it. The regrettable fact is that then, Sidhu would start speaking.

All in all, an amazing tour. Can't wait for the Australia-India series.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004


At stumps on day 4, England were 145 for no loss. Imagine if they manage to escape with a draw with 7 or 8 or even 9 wickets down, like they did in Sri Lanka. Will cricketing pundits say that Lara sacrificedthe chance of a redeeming test win just to go for personal records?

All of those who say Tendulkar is "selfish" and Lara is not, note that Lara was 313 off 426 balls overnight. He got his 400 in 582 balls. That means he took 156 balls to get the last 87 runs. This, when the team had crossed 600 and should ideally be looking for a speedy declaration. Contrast it with Hayden who was going wham-bam even when lara's record was in sight.

Or will the pundits say that reaching 400 was far more important than a test win that would not change the result of the series anyway. However note that if West Indies do not win it today, it will be the first time in many years (Harish would know exactly how many) that they did not win a single test in a home series.

Of course if the West Indies win, all this is irrelevant. However I seriously doubt that, given the spirit that the Poms have shown under first Hussain and then Vaughan.

By the way, doesn't the West Indian team remind you of the Indian hockey team at times? I have seen that whenever they have lost a test series at home before the last match, they always do brilliantly well in the last match. They beat South Africa in the last test 3 years back. There was the world record chase last year against Australia. And this year, the Lara 400. Even the Indian hockey team performs brilliantly in the Olympics or the World Cup, after they are out of running for the semis.

If any team needs the services of Sandy Gordon, it is West Indies. And over the past few months, I have been wondering if Lara really is a good captain, or simply a captain who bats very well. His captaincy record is worse than Walsh or Hooper. One might argue that they miss Walsh and Ambrose, but then, hardly any team in the world right now has a reliable and effective pace attack, not even Australia. More often than not, it is the WIndies batting that lets them down.

Before this test, I would have put my money on Lara losing the captaincy, but with this 400, I am not sure. Especially since it was a whitewash-avoiding knock.

To drop Chopra was a mistake. But Ganguly followed it up with another blunder when he sent Parthiv Patel to open. What does it say of the middle order, if the young kid has to open against the fastest attack in the world? Is this how we reward a guy who has been the driving force behind the spine that the Indian tail has recently found? Promote him to the toughest position in the lineup?

The criticism of Chopra was that he scored slowly, and could not convert his starts to big scores. If Sehwag fell early, he would slow down the rate. Well, today India scored 23 runs in 15 overs.

How does sending Patel, especially with just 15 overs to go, make any sense, short term or long term?

So today, he had to concentrate hard for 15 overs. Tomorrow, he wil have to do the same all over again, with the helpful morning conditions, a still-new ball and the fresh pace attack.

Even if he succeeds does he have the technique to become a permanent opener? And if he fails, haven't you made the tail weaker by sending him as the sacrificial lamb?

Yuvraj is also to blame to a great degree.

Firstly, I think he should choose the Laxman way. When Laxman was told that the only way he could get into the team was by openign, he said no thank you, went back to Ranji trophy and earned his place in the middle order. Yuvraj, at 22 years old, should do the same.

However if he has decided to become an opener, then he must impress upon everyone, from the selectors to the team management to sceptics like me, that he has the goods to be a permanent opener. Today he should have insisted on opening.

Now imagine a scenario where Patel fails opening in the first innings, and Yuvraj does not make too many runs in this test. What do you think will happen?

Sunday, April 11, 2004


England must be wondering why must Lara keep scoring triples against them. Yesterday, while the whole world, including me, had looked at the first three tests and pronounced "Lara's golden run has ended", he shut us all up with a magnificent triple hundred, scoring 227 runs in the day (incidentally, one run less than Sehwag's first day overnight score at Multan :)). While the triple comes in a dead rubber match, it does not take anything away from the splendid performance.

He is 313* overnight, off 426 deliveries, having played what was apparently a chanceless innings. Again I curse the TEN Sports wrangle for having robbed me of an opportunity to watch the masterpiece.

Now there are two questions.

The first immediate and obvious one is, will he take back his record from Matthew Hayden, who according to me, does not deserve to hold it. I sure hope he does, because I want the record to be held only by a great.

The second question, is one about which I forgot to write in my Sachin post. While the world has been obsessed with the "Battle of Spinners", with both Warne and Murali neck to neck, everybody seems to have ignored the "Battle of the Geniuses".

Both Lara and Tendulkar are close to 10,000 runs in test cricket. Lara has played 187 innings, as opposed to Sachin's 183. Sachin stands on 9469, while Lara, including his 313* stands at 9570. It will be interesting to see who reaches there first.

Update: I am sorry, but I remembered later that the ODI-greedy Dalmiya has called off India's test series of Bangladesh. However West Indies will play Bangladesh in May-June. So I guess it will be Lara, because Tendulkar's innings at Pindi will be his last test innings for some months. However ti will be fun to see who gets it in lesser innings.

Anyway, fingers crossed for a Lara 400. :)

Friday, April 09, 2004

Reproduced without permission from "The Daily SomeAchaar"


Mayawati Launches TV Channel

Lucknow - Former UP Chief Minister, Mayawati, today announced the launch a new TV channel, BTV. This channel will address issues of the bahujan samaj.

"All the channels on air currently are Manuwadi", shrieked Mayawati talking to reporters. "These channels are nothing but vehicles to perpetuate the hidden agenda of high caste domination. BTV, i.e Bahujan TV, will attempt at empowering the bahujan samaj."

The flagship show of the channel would be a soap opera called "Kyunki Saans Bhi Kabhi Bahujan Thi", and the shooting will commence next week at Ambedkar Studios.

Talk of progress a ploy to divert attention from real issues, says Laloo

Patna - Addressing scribes at an impromptu press conference during his campaign, RJD Chief Laloo Prasad Yadav said that all this talk of progress, removing poverty, communal harmony, and social reforms was nothing but a means of diverting attention of the masses from the real issues. However when asked to elaborate what the real issues were, he declined to comment, and instead extolled the virtues of his new buffalo.

Declare Earth a Hindu Graha, demands VHP

New York - VHP Secretary Pravin Togadia today demanded that UN declare the earth a "Hindu Graha". He was speaking at a "Trishul Deeksha" organised by the VHP in the Queens suburb of New York.

"It is a well accepted fact that the earth was created by Brahma, who is a Hindu God. This means that all earthlings were Hindus. Over thousands of years, 5/6th of the population has been misguided by subversive streams of thought like Islam, Christianity, Taoism, etc. The UN should declare earth a "Hindu Graha"." he said.

In light of the tenure of Kofi Annan the present Secretary general of the UN coming to an end, Togadia said that VHP would support Shashi Tharoor's candidature for the post only if he endorsed their Hindutvawadi policies.

"Anybody who opposes Hindutva can never rule the UN." boomed Togadia.

Gollum joins BJP, Shrek joins Congress

New Delhi - Animated characters have also joined the political fold with Gollum joining the BJP and Shrek becoming a member of the Congress Party.

Gollum, accompanied by BJP President Venkaiah Naidu, announced his decision at a press conference in the capital today.

"We likesssssssssssssss the BJP." Gollum said, reading out a written statement. "We hatesssssssssss Sssssssssonia....we hatesssssssssss her!!"

The Congress Party retaliated by announcing the membership of Shrek. Shrek was accompanied by his wife Fiona, and a talking donkey as he filled the membership form at the Congress Headquarters. Later while talking to the media he said,

"My swamp is still full of cribbing creatures and the BJP talks of a Feel Good factor?"

When asked about the BJP's stand to introduce a legislation barring ogres from holding public office, Shrek declined to comment. However the donkey said "They scared of of Shrek, man, they scared!!".

Our country in specific and the world in general, would do very well, if the Money Speech from Atlas Shrugged was made a part of school curriculum.

And it is born.....!!

I have finally given The Daily SomeAchaar its own webspace. Go to this blog.

Thursday, April 08, 2004

Happy Dilemmas

Currently we are facing dilemmas in both batting and bowling selections. It shows the richness of talent in Indian cricket.

I would go against the popular tide and back Chopra for the Pindi test. The guy plays out time, and gives fellows like Tendulkar, Laxman and Ganguly/Yuvraj an oldish ball to play with. His presence means that Sehwag can play his natural game without fearing a collapse. He has the technique to handle quality fast bowling, and basically, he has results on his side. He has been part of 4 century stands, and 4 half century stands in the 8 tests he has played.

Pitchforking Yuvraj to the opening position on the basis of his performance at Number 6 reeks of the myopia that plagued Indian cricket until 4 years back. We caught hold of any promising dude and made him open, because there was no place in the middle order. Laxman is one example. That can be forgiven because then the regular openers were all failing.

Chopra is not failing. Just because he has not scored a half century in ages does not mean he is failing. Judge him by the opening stands he has been involved in. And on those counts, he has done better than even the Australians this season.

We want to emulate the Australians. Remember what the Australians did to Martyn while Mark Waugh was playing, or to Simon Katich recently? Katich scored a match-saving century at Sydney. Yet he was not in the eleven for the first test in Sri Lanka, because Lehmann was back. He was only included in the third test in place of Symonds because of his spin bowling. Whenever Martyn replaced Waugh or any other batsman in times of injury, even if he played well, he had to make way for the guy coming back.

What we need to tell Yuvraj is "Dude, you have done a fantastic job in the middle order. But there is no spot there. And we know you want to open, but our openers are doing a fantastic job. Please return to the bench."

If anyone should make way for Yuvraj, it should be Ganguly. But as I said in my earlier post, it is too early to say whether Dravid is as good, or better than Ganguly in terms of captaincy.

My suggestion would be to send Yuvraj back to the bench, and get Ganguly in. Let us not get swayed by one or two tests. And let us not make Chopra pay the price of the personality-centric way in which we follow cricket.

However if we feel that Yuvraj the batsman is better than Ganguly the batsman+captain, then drop Ganguly from the 14. As I said, I am not convinced about this yet.

In bowling too we face dilemmas. If Nehra and Zaheer are fit, then what do we do? Again, we have to look at things long term. If we feel that in the long term, Balaji is better than either of them, then make him a permanent fixture, regardless of whether he bowls badly in one or two tests. Let us not judge Zaheer on the basis of one innings. When fully fit, he has run through oppositions, both at home and abroad. Same with Nehra. In my eyes, the best combination is Pathan, the swing specialist, Zaheer the hit-the-deck-on-seam specialist, and Agarkar, who can do a bit of both when hundred percent fit, as we saw in Australia.

Unfortunately, our cricket fans, as well as our selectors have myopia, as well as the memory of a gold fish.

I am hoping against hope that Yuvraj will be benched and Chopra will retain his spot. But it seems highly unlikely. And I do not consider Yuvraj's technique good enough to handle an inspired burst of new ball bowling.

Sachin's Weakness?

In 1998, when Sachin knocked out Mark Taylor's Australia, the world hailed him as the best batsman after Bradman. Bowlers universally agreed that the man had no weakness at all, as opposed to Lara who was a flawed genius. This meant that bowlers could not scheme and get Sachin out. They could just hope he made mistakes, like the uppish cut that got him caught at point.

Which is why an article by Steve Waugh last year, i.e in 2003, caught my attention. He said the only weakness he had recently detected in Sachin, was the inseaming delivery that could bowl him through the gate, or trap him in front.

After the dismissals in the Lahore test, I decided to dig up some stats to see if this could be backed up. And sure enough, here is what I found.

I decided to start at the zenith of Tendulkar's batting form, i.e, when he looked like he would easily cross the average of 60 in test cricket. Before the 2001-2002 Kotla test against Zimbabwe, his average was at an all time high of 58.88. After that, it slipped to 55.33 before the Sydney test earlier this year, but has climbed back above 58 due to his 241* and 194*.

Since the Kotla test, he has been dismissed 39 times. Out of these, 9 are bowled and 13 are LBWs. What this means is that 22 out of 39, i.e a staggering 56.4% of his dismissals have been caused by bowlers attacking the stumps. In light of the Bucknors of the world, let us assume that a third of his LBWs were wrongly. Even then, almost half of his dismissals have been caused that way. And even if the dismissals were wrong, it means basically he didnt get a substantial amount of bat on them.

I have observed that Sachin is usually bowled when he is playing forward. And he is LBW when he is playing back. Most of these 22 dismissals have been off deliveries landing on the seam and coming in to him, or they have been in-swingers.

Even the two dismissals in the Lahore test have been off inseaming deliveries.

I tried to jog my memory back and remember the earliest I had seen him get out LBW this way. My mind took me back to the 1998-99 tour of New Zealand, the one where Simon Doull destroyed us in the first test, and some resolute lower order batting robbed us of a then much awaited overseas test win at Seddon Park. Tendulkar had scored a half century and was given out LBW, when he was rapped on the pads, playing back, to a delivery too high to hit the stumps. And as I study the stats, I come across a startling piece of information.

That LBW in Seddon Park, was the first time Sachin was LBW in almost 5 years!!! I counted, and found out that he has gone 50 innings without a single LBW, since 1994-95.

So what has exactly changed? Is Sachin's age having this effect, when he can't pick the length and seam position quickly enough because of slower reflexes? Or is he playing back too much?

Whatever it is, I am sure the champ will sort it out soon.

Thursday, April 01, 2004


When the 5th day's play started, I wondered if the last wicket would fall without a single run being scored. Because I remember that 5 years ago, 207 was the score on which Kumble got his 10th wicket in Delhi. It was not to be this time and 9 more runs were added. But the first win on Pakistani soil in 52 years finally happened, coincidentally with a margin of an inning and 52 runs.

Like Indian victories in the recent past, this one too has been a team effort. Sure, Sehwag's rapid 309 set up the win, but it was Pathan and Kumble's accuracy, Sachin's relentless genius both with the bat and the ball, Yuvraj's fielding, Chopra's atching, and Dravid's captaincy that helped us cross one more frontier.

Let me tell you what I find the funniest in this whole test. The series was hyped, mainly by the ignorant media, as a duel between Sachin (the batsman) vs Shoaib (the bowler). At the end of this test, notice that Sachin the bowler got Shoaib the batsman out for a duck!! Sachin was bowling with fantastic control. That, combined with Pakistan's traditional weakness against leg spin, meant that even the 4th change bowler was causing problems for them.

Sachin the batsman, through this innings, when combined with his Sydney one, shows signs of growing up. He is no longer the swashbuckler. He does not need to be, in company of people like Sehwag and Laxman. Notice that these two players, with whom he has shared back-to-back 300-plus partneships, have outscored him in those essays. Also notice, that both times, it was the other guy whose dismissal ended the partnership. The reason is that no matter how entertaining Sehwag and Laxman might be, they simply do not have his range nor his technique. Sachin can decide "I ain't getting out!!" and stick to it with a great degree of success. He can cut down the risks and still score at a reasonable pace. 194 off 360 balls is excellent strike rate for a test matches. That he can achieve it despite the curbs he has placed on himself spells doom for the opposition.

Bradman once said that he saw many batsmen who were more talented than him. They just kept getting out. I think Sachin has taken this quote to heart. Others will crib about how rarely he is playing the cover-drive, or how he does not charge the spinners any more. These people should remember that it is the result of the match that eventually matters. Sachin has been playing this was in only 2 tests. But I will stick my neck out and predict that he will keep playing this way. And he will have an extremely prolific 2004. Considering he has scored almost 500 runs already, and considering we have still to go.....2 tests against Pakistan....2 against Bangladesh (only team against which he hasn't scored a 100)....and 4 against Australia, I feel no trepidation predicting that he will cross the unchartered boundaries of "2000 runs in a calendar year" in 2004.

Ganguly will not be there for the next test. Yuvraj's guardian angel is working over time. This test match showed how valuable a player he is. His batting, fielding and bowling were instrumental in this win. Just his presence in the field puts doubts in the batsman's mind. (In the next two tests, just take note of how Inzy will refuse any singles unless they are absolutely safe :)). I think this presents an interesting dilemma for the selectors. Ganguly has not been missed in this test. As a player, Yuvraj outperformed him, and as a captain, Dravid proved to be his equal. One might be tempted to say that let Ganguly stay out.

I would say the jury is still out on this. If we see Dravid captaining the side well, even when ganguly is not there to advice him, then yes, I guess ganguly's test career might be (or should be) in serious threat. We pride ourselves for the Aussielike methods we have adopted. Well, they showed no gratitude for Steve Waugh. We should not for Ganguly either. If he has not been missed, he should not be alowed to walk into the side when he recovers. He can be ODI captain. However let us wait and see Dravid's captaincy sans Ganguly to make this call.

On to the next test now. Waqar Younis, a Lahore boy himself, says the Gaddafi track has been a batting paradise. That was amply evident in the two ODIs as well. However there is talk of Pakistan, under intense criticism from the likes of Imran Khan for preparing a flat pitch at Multan, deciding to have a greentop at Lahore. Now considering that it is traditionally a batting paradise, this presents an interesting scenario. Such pitches can be made paceman-friendly, but they will remain paceman-friendly for only the first 4-5 sessions or so. After that, the sting in the track will be gone. In this hot weather, it may be even sooner. So what will happen is that the dice will be loaded in the favour of the team that bowls first.

So if Inzamam wins the toss, puts India in to bat, and gets us out for a reasonably low score due to a combo of the pitch and the bowlers (like in the Peshawar ODI), he might as well say "Bismilla Rahmaney Raheem Sabse Pehle to Allahtaala ka shukar" after every over. However, if inspite of being put in on a green top, we bat with gumption, like we have done in the past at Headingley and Brisbane, then Pakistan can kiss the series goodbye. On the other hand, if we put them in, then with swing at both ends in the form of Agarkar and Pathan, we can dominate from ball 1. However a lot depends on whether Agarkar strikes his rhythm right away. Even if they bat first and post up a total, the track will have eased out enough for us to reply in kind.

The fact that we just toured Australia before coming to Pakistan is showing. Our bowling line up is mentally prepared to dismiss the Aussie top order. With that sort of preparation, Pakistan, with the exception of Inzamam, proves no threat. We have been able to maintain the level of intensity throughout the whole test. In Australia, we did that with the exception of 1 session in Melbourne.

Speaking of Australia, they just whipped Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka 3-0. It was a convincing performance and they did not show too much respect for the guiles of Murali. This basically silences those critics who said the only reason India dominated the Ozzies in Oz, was that we caught them at he start of their decline. This is hardly a declining team. The only change is Shane Warne, who has never, nor will he ever, perform well against India. The series in India later this year should be more than worth a watch.