Vantage point

Saturday, October 30, 2004


I have spent a lot of time jogging my memory for a cricket match that we lost in the 90s (and boy, did we lose a lot!!), where Nayan Mongia dropping a catch or missing a stumping cost us the match.

I can remember a lot of occasions where Mongia's batting was at fault. but not his keeping.

Was Mongia's alleged match-fixing limited only to his batting? Or do you people have recollection of any time that he muffed up behind the stumps as well?

Viru ki Jay!!

Yet another test series goes by with Virender Sehwag scoring a blistering century, along with a half-century.

Sehwag has been on the scene for almost 4 seasons now, and the time is usually enough for the opposition to dissect your game and work on your weak points. As a result most batsmen, who start their careers in style, have a lean patch after 2 or 3 seasons. With Viru, the patch is yet to come.

Why is Viru so consistently successful?

In my opinion, the success has a lot to do with his technique, as I mailed a few of my friends recently. What part of his technique, I will elaborate later.

But meanwhile, I would like the readers of my blog to comment about what they think is the reason behind Sehwag's success.

I will collate those thoughts with my own and present a critique.

Friday, October 29, 2004

Bah, socialists!!

Our old friend, Sathish from IIMK, who was a big supporter of Murli Manohar Joshi's fee-cut drive, recently left a comment on my blog that went -

Your socialist Joshi's controversial IIM fee reduction idea has now resulted in IIM-K instituting a need based scholarship scheme and I am one of the first recipients. :))

It sure has decreased my financial burden and am thankful to Dr. Joshi for it. He he

This is the same guy who has gone on record on his blog saying that he will not go for an MNC placement, but would prefer to work for the country's development. That, only time will tell.

The issue here, Sathish is not that.

You may be thankful to Joshi for it, sathish, but you are missing the bigger picture.

Who is paying for your education? If it is private scholarships, like in my days, then fine. If Aditya Birla wanted to pay for your MBA, then hey, its his money. I've no beef with that.

But why is the taxpayer "reducing your financial burden"?

Firstly, i don't agree with subsidies at all.

But even if I do accept the idea, we should subsidise something which is absolutely necessary....a fundamental right. Subsidising MBA fatcats like ourselves when our spending on primary education is peanuts, reeks of the highest degree of elitism.

I come from a normal middle class family. If I had not gotten a loan, I would not have been able to go to IIML. Today, I have a job thanks to my education, and the job pays me enough to not only repay the loan, but also lead a very cushy lifestyle.

I don't know what your "needs" were, but as someone who probably comes from a similar background, let me tell you that the salary you get after graduating from an IIM is enough to repay the loan, and rescue your family from any normal crisis it might be in.

Hell, I would go so far as to say that even if the subsidies were removed, i.e my loan installments were doubled, I would still be able to have a decent lifestyle.

So smirk in satisfaction at having benefitted from a sucker of a state, Sathish.

But the next time you are in a rickety bus that rattles over an excuse of a road filled with potholes, don't complain. The money that could have repaired the road probably paid for your education. An expense that you could easily have borne yourself.

Bahh, socialists!!


...and the final frontier falls!

Well played, Australia!

Thursday, October 28, 2004

India Unbound

Gurcharan Das' India Unbound is a wonderful book about how India became poor, and can now become rich again.

The crux of the book is the same as the "Business Environment" course taught in IIML. What makes it more fun is the personal touch that Das has added, weaving the story of his own life along with the story of Indian socialism. He has also utilised his contacts to get the first person account from many people about certain key events. For example, his description of events involving Manmohan Singh, Montek Singh and P Chidambaram during the 1991 liberalisation are fun to read.

Reading the description of the pre-1991 days is even scarier than reading about the days of colonisation. How a state could enforce such mind-bogglingly stupid policies is baffling. And yet, it also reminds us that we still have a long way to go. We need to get rid of the Fabian baggage.

This is the sort of book which will clear the misconceptions of many Indians about the causes for our poverty.

Do pick it up.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Bride and De-judice?

When I was a kid, I read two books that were squarely classified as "Chick Books". The first one was Little Women. I took up the book at my mother's recommendation when I was about 11, and I must say I quite enjoyed it.

The second Chick Book I read was Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. Now this one I absolutely hated. The heroine, her family, the guys she has crushes on, everyone was so revolting. The world she lived in seemed so horrible.....Civil War America made so much more sense.... that I was able to finish it only after a huge effort.

So when i went to watch Gurinder Chaddha's Bride and Prejudice, I went in with rock bottom expectations. Which is probably why I didn't hate it as much as other bloggers did.

The movie, for all its flaws, is quite faithful to the book. In fact I quite like the way it has been adapted in the Indian scenario. Don't get me wrong, it's no Maqbool, but in general, the adaptation is quite accurate.

While Nadira Babbar's character is revolting, no one can deny that such groom-crazy mothers are present in India by the hordes. The craze of "phoren" is also there. The funda of a wannabe-yank-brownskin-bride-shopping-in-india, played by a guy who can stake a claim to being Gulshan Grover's long lost brother, is also very much true.

I found the movie passable, and not in the vicinity of being mentioned in the same breath as Bend it like Beckham. But I do think that everyone, led by the oh-so-reliable Shobha De are lambasting the movie a little too much. Are they ready to give Jane Austen the same treatment?

Thursday, October 14, 2004

The Tale of a Tail

What follows is one of my favourite activities. Detecting patterns using statistics. :)

India's lower order fight back in the last test made me think.... is this one major thing that has changed about the Indian team, but has not really been registered in our minds? Has Ganguly's captaincy made the lower order more tenacious?

Let us look at the batting averages of Ganguly's regular bowlers.

Pathan - 19.50
Zaheer - 9.27
Nehra - 5.50
Harbhajan - 13.50
Agarkar - 14.00
Kumble - 16.55

That's an average of about 14 runs per bowler. Consider India plays 4 bowlers, this means they add on an average 56 runs per inning.

And the wicket keepers -

Patel - 32.00
Dasgupta - 28.67
Ratra - 18.11

Again, averaging this, we get about 26 runs.

So the lower order on an average scores 82 runs per innings. That is huge!

This led me to list the run difference between the scores at the sixth and the tenth wicket in an Indian innings in the recent past. Let's take 20 completed test inningss counting backwards. here are the scores. (in case of sub-50 scores, I have also indicated the team total) -

153, 110, 110, 81, 160, 18(286), 13(366), 76, 80, 36(424), 44(154), 29(99), 69, 45(121), 87, 98, 112, 50, 43(508), 72.

This averages to about 75 runs per inning!!

The Indian tail has started putting a price on it's life.


Walking, in cricket, is like unilateral nuclear disarmament in international politics. You might start doing it, and you get applauded by everyone because of it. But it can work in the long term only if everyone does it.

Adam Gilchrist has started a new trend in the Australian team, that of walking if you know you are out, regardless of the umpire's decision. Now I have seen him do this before, but I have also seen him stay at the crease. If this is something he has started doing because he is captain (remember, he was flayed in the 2003 World Cup for doing it), then it is a very curious development. Let us see if others, more specifically top order batsmen, follow his lead. Let us also see how Ponting's return to captaincy affects this trend.

Great article

One of the best articles written by an Indian cricket journalist recently. May his tribe increase.

Mental disintegration from within

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

An Egoistic Post

Just noticed something. The sitemeter counter is approaching the six-digit mark. :)

Close Encounters of the Dumb Kind - Part 2

I was at Phoenix Mills, Lower Parel meeting a customer. Having finished that call, I had to go to Chembur. My colleague was going to pick me up in 10 minutes. I thus spotted a time-window in which I could pay my Airtel bill, which was overdue by more than a week.

So I called up the Airtel call centre. After pressing many different buttons, I finally got hold of a "customer service executive(CSE)".

Me: Hello listen, I'm in a bit of a hurry. I just need some quick..
CSE: Good Afternoon sir. This is Joseph. How may I be of your assistance, Mr. sabnis?
Me: Ya, that's what i am trying to tell you. I need to know the closest location where I can pay the Arirtel bill using a credit card. I am in Phoenix Mills, Lower Parel right now.
CSE: Certainly sir, I will definitely give you the information you need. Could you please confirm your mobile number?
Me: What? Why do you need..... oh never mind... 989XXXXXXX.
CSE: OK sir, Mr. Sabnis. You want to know the closest location to pay the the bill using a credit card, is that correct sir?
Me: Yes!!!!
CSE: And you are in Lower Parel?
Me: yes. Please hurry. I have to attend a meeting after paying the bill.
CSE: Definitely sir, I will give you the information you need.
irritating silence with the clacking of keys
CSE: yes, sir you can pay the bill using credit card at any of these locations - Andheri, Bandra, Prabhadevi....
CSE: Certainly sir, I will tell you. You can pay it at our main office in Lower Parel. Where are you in lower Parel, sir?
CSE: OK sir, this is very close to Phoenix Mills. Ask anyone where the Airtel office is.

Monday, October 11, 2004

The Bangalore Test

This was one of those defeats where the margin looks deceptively high. But if you get right down to it, the match was a lot closer than one would think.

As I have often said, India vs Australia battles are all about out-batting each other. Both sides are filled with talented batsmen who have a penchant for making high scores. When you have so many talented batsmen, more often than not, a bowler relies on either mistakes (the batsman's or the umpires) or producing a really good delivery.

Very few batsmen in either side have a glaring wicket that the bowlers can routinely take advantage of to get their wickets. The two glaring weaknesses I see in the two teamds combines are -

- Justin langer missing the delivery that straightens, and getting hit on the pads (check how much he's been LBW against India)
- Yuvraj Singh not being able to resist poking at deliveries outside the off stump

Other than these two, the rest of the batsmen will get out either to a magic ball, or because of a mistake from themselves or the umpire.

And if the umpire gives any batsman a reprieve, then it easily adds a lot of runs to the tally. If the umpiring is equally bad, then this tends to even out. But at bangalore, like in Melbourne 2003, the umpiring was heavily skewed against India. I am not saying that the umpires hate India or anything. They are just plain bad and unluckily, we were at the receiving end. Anyone who says "they are human, mistakes happen", please explain the following incident -

India's second innings. Dravid is batting with Pathan. Warne bowling. The ball pitches outside leg stump. Dravid gets on the forward defensive, his bat firmly tucked behind his pad.The ball turns, makes a noise as it passes Dravid, causing the Aussies to yell "CATCH IT!!" as the ball goes towards the slips. Hayden, in the slips, dives, but the ball goes wide of him. Dravid looks back, sees the ball is running away towards thirdman. Pathan starts running but Dravid sends him back. Rightly so, as the replays later show, the ball hit Dravid's pads. And in cricket, leg byes aren't awarded if you were not playing a shot. Dravid, like most batsmen aware of this fact, chooses not to take a run. The fielder chasing the ball, looks back, sees Dravid isn't running, and doesn't pursue the ball very aggressively. The ball rolls over the boundary ropes.....and Upmire Bucknor signals four runs!!!!! Dravid is shocked, gestures to the umpire that the ball didn;t hit his bat. But Bucknor insists on awarding India four runs!!!!!

Please explain to me the logic behind doing this, when the batsman himself says he doesn't deserve the runs. The only explanation is that Bucknor is senile and needs to be let out to graze.

Anyway, enough about the umpiring.

I do not believe the Aussies are very well prepared for this tour. Most of them looked very uncomfortable against India's spin duo, and Pathan. here are a few observations I made.

- The victory was achieved only because of brilliant individual performances. There was no real grit shown by the Aussie lower order. Warne's runs in the second innings were more Harbhajan-like and cavalier, than Pathan-like and determined.

- Warne's lacklustre performance, and the ease with which he was handled by everyone shows that he still hasn't learnt from his previous mistakes. In my humble opinion, Warne should stick to just one line, on and slightly outside leg stump, and cut down his turn a bit. When the ball pitches way outside leg stump, Indians can just pad it away. When it pitches on or just outside leg stump, it turns so much that Indians just rock back and cut it. warne's only two successes (the other two were umpiring gifts) of the match, both Laxman, came off deliveries that pitched on the line that I mentioned and turned moderately. If he persists with that line, he will definitely pick up more wickets.

- Adam Gilchrist is a bad captain. His bowling changes have been very uninspired most of the times. If this team is pushed against the wall by a big Indian partnership, they will crumble, like at Adelaide.

A few observations about India -

- Picking Zaheer was a mistake. Agarkar has been successful against the Aussies, and needs to be in the eleven. Like in batting, even in bowling a right-left opening combination is always more effective.

- We need to persist with Chopra, at least for this series. The experiment of promoting Yuvraj to opening should be performed against a weaker team. It succeeded with Sehwag but Yuvraj is not as talented and compact as Sehwag is. Chopra got out to good balls in both innings, while Yuvraj gave his wicket away. Even Patel and Pathan put more price on their wicket.

- The heartening change in the Indian lower order in recent years has been their desire to put a price on their wicket. we do not have Srinaths any more who would tilt their head and just heave the bat.

- This is the third time that Ganguly and Dravid have been involved in this sort of a run out in the last 6 tests. They need to sit down and work this problem out.

So that's that. The next match, I expect India to come back hard, and square the series. Let's see what happens.

Monday, October 04, 2004

Close encounters of the dumb kind

This is a conversation that actually happened last week. It is not part of a Rajk short story.

It all started when a rickshaw drove up to me just as I was about to enter my office building in Bandra Kurla Complex. A guy in his late 20s was sitting in the back and the rickshawwallah was looking very hassled. This is how the conversation went -

Guy: Excuse me, could you tell me where the Bombay Stock Exchange in Bandra Kurla Complex (BKC) is?
Me: You mean National Stock Exchange.
Guy: No no, Bombay Stock Exchange....BSE.
Me: BSE is not in BKC. The National Stock Exchange is that building (pointing to the green NSE building).
Guy: Come on yaar, haven't you seen the BSE building on TV? That is not it. That building is green.
Me: I know what BSE looks like. BSE is about 10 km from here. In BKC, the only stock exchange is the NSE.
Guy: No, no, I want to go to the BSE in BKC.
Rickshawwallah: Saahab, maine aapko bola tha na, BKC mein national stock exchange hai.
Guy: Yaar, I have seen the building on TV.

Me and the rickshawwallah exchange pained glances. Then i make an attempt to clarify things.

Me: See, the BSE is at Fort, near Churchgate. The building you have seen on TV is there. In BKC, you only have the NSE. Its building is green.
Guy: OK...NSE means NIFTY, right?
Me: Yes, the NSE's index is called Nifty
Guy: But isn't the NIFTY in Delhi?
Me: What?
Guy: Yes, the NIFTY is in Delhi and the SENSEX is in Mumbai.
Me: No, no, both are in Mumbai.
Guy: Then there is BSE?
Me: Near Churchgate.
Guy: But BSE is in BKC.
Guy: Ok, Ok, no need to shout. So should I tell this auto-wallah to take me to BSE?
Me: He can't. You'll have to take a taxi.
Guy: What? Why?
Me: Because autos are not allowed to go there.
Guy: Ohhhh, so that's why he hasn;t taken me to BSE in BKC
Me: There is no BSE in BKC. BSE is at Fort. Auto-rickshaws are not allowed to go there. You can only take a taxi.

At this point the guy eyed me suspiciously, then said to the rickshawwallah "Let's ask someone else. This guy doesn't know what he is talking about."

We should all be allowed one murder.

Let the games begin!!

The lip smacking treat of another test series between India and Australia is just under two weeks away. The mood amongst the Indians fans would be as mixed as the mood amongst the Indian players. How will they look forward to the series?

My guess is, they are looking forward to this series ferociously. Over the past couple of seasons, one has noticed that one thing this team is full of is self-belief. And this trait is kindled most intensely when the media is writing them off. After the disastrous tour of New Zealand, the media was castigating the team, we replied with a good World Cup campaign. At the beginning of the Aussie tour last year, the media was again targetting the Indian team after their failure against New Zealand at home and the TVS Cup. We responded in a way that made the world sit up and take notice.

Now the team finds itself in the same position. Everyone is doubting it, and again, it will be the Australians who will be at the opposite end.

I am going to stick my neck out and predict an Indian win...maybe 3-1, or 2-1.

The reason is the same as last time. We can out-bat them. Especially on the subcontinent, and especially with both our spinners fit and in fine form.

Like last time, this is going to be a contest of who outbats whom.

On form, one might back the Aussies, but on class I would back the India.

DD = DumbDumb

Yesterday I saw a show on Doordarshan's marathi channel which showed me how deeply rooted the leftist mindset has become in India. It really enraged me no end, and I felt amazed at how the guy who was at the receving end of stupidity kept his calm.

The show was a call-in programme with two guests. One was the head of the Mumbai Fire Brigade. The other was a senior person from Topsline, India's first private sector Emergency Response Service.

What disgusted me was how the host and the fire brigade guy ganged up against the Topsline guy as if he were the most despicable human being alive, and Topsline was some kind of mafia.

For the uninitiated, Topsline is a company which is pioneering private Emergency response services in India. Currently operating in Mumbai, the company provides emergency services to its subscribers. The charge is 100 rupees per month for a family.

Once you subscribe to it, they guarantee you prompt response for emergencies like accident, medical emergency, or physical assault.

Now I am not saying that i whole-heartedly endorse the viability of this idea. I see several hitches, though by and large I encourage this innovative experiment of a libertarian nature.

What irritated me was the illogical way in which the host kept attacking the concept of Topsline. It shows how suspicious many Indians still are about private enterprise.