Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The big cricket debate

Have been following the Indian Cricket League vs BCCI scrap story for a while now. Quite closely, what with the series of shows that we have done ever since the ‘Rebel League’ was launched. And it certainly is a most fascinating story, the way it has panned out so far.

But what’s interesting is where the story has reached now:

- Around 50 domestic cricketers have defected to the ICL
- A number of cricketers past and present from other countries have also joined the party
- Kapil Dev and a number of other former cricketers have joined the ICL in administrative capacities
- The BCCI has announced no ban on the defectors, but have announced that these cricketers will not be eligible for any BCCI benefits
- The BCCI has also, though not in as many words, said that defectors will face a life ban from the BCCI
- The ICL has decided to go ahead anyway

But what does all this add up to?

- Kapil (and others like More, Patil, Prasanna, Sandhu, Chauhan, et al) are clear winners in the story – they will be part of the ICL, make a lot of money, work full-time, and be looked upon as martyrs for having been sacked from the BCCI
- The domestic tournaments – Ranji Trophy, Duleep Trophy, etc – will suffer for the moment, with a number of leading cricketers missing from the set-up
- The cricketers who have joined the ICL will make a fair amount of money, which no one will grudge

But the biggest point is something else altogether…the ICL will not succeed. Obviously.

- For years now, we have bemoaned the lack of spectator interest in domestic cricket tournaments. Now, does the ICL realistically expect people like Dinesh Mongia, Nilesh Kulkarni, Deep Dasgupta, Ambati Rayudu and others to start attracting the crowds?
- Does the ICL realistically expect the Indian cricket-watching public to throng the grounds only because Brian Lara is there?
- Or does the ICL expect people like Inzamam-ul-Haq and Mohammad Yousuf to attract the crowds? Inzamam! In a Twenty20 format! Comic relief, maybe. And what about Yousuf?
- Or is the ICL banking on Nicky Boje and Lance Klusener? Klusener at his peak might have been a draw, but now? And Boje, a spinner who doesn’t even get picked in the South African team, where Graeme Smith is currently the number one spinner!

What will the ICL be selling itself with then? I haven’t found an answer to that. And pushing the answer further towards the negative end is the fact that the ICL is unlikely to get a single big stadium from the BCCI or a single umpire of any repute.

Kapil, yesterday, was at our studios, and I did a very ‘successful’ show with him, where he actually said that the BCCI is ‘ruthless’, is doing ‘dadagiri’ and that he would go on a ‘hunger strike’ if good performers in the ICL are ignored by the BCCI. I agree with everything he said. But where are these youngsters whose performances should be monitored by the BCCI? Rayudu? Jhunjhunwala? Who else? Nilesh Kulkarni?

I could go on and on here, and not move a muscle from the original understanding behind the creation of the ICL – a big statement made by Zee in anger after having lost the TV deal. But the story is interesting. Except that there’s not a single party that stands to gain (except in that they will make a few dents in the opposition).

Mihir Bose writes on the story here.

And Siddharth Monga writes a well-argued piece here.


Couldn't believe it when I was directed to this site by Shantanu here in office. It's mind-blowing. All you have to do is write in Hindi but in the Roman script. The software deals with the language problem. If something similar can be done in other langauges all the modified keyboards will become totally redundant. This is mindblowing technology.

If you are among the 12 people who read my blog, please try it. It's fascinating.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

The Dog vs The Run-outer

Yes, Bedi is a loudmouth, a loose cannon, and he just doesn’t know when to shut up. But heck, he’s right, isn’t he? Murali does chuck. He always has. He always will. Even when he wraps up his career with around 1,000 Test wickets. He will even make a few extra millions in the process.
But I am on Bedi’s side. All those 1,000 wickets will be run-outs and nothing more.

It’s always been the ICC that’s to blame. It can’t offend the South Asian bloc. Not on anything. It’s always the BCCI and the PCB, and to a fairly large extent the SLC, that will have its way.

So if you are a young Indian or Pakistani or Sri Lankan bowler, you can try chucking in your formative years if you feel it helps your performance. Chances are that it will be legal by the time you make it to the team.

Mukul Kesavan writes on the subject here.

After ages…a trek

It had been so, so long since I have been on a trek, that I’d actually forgotten where it was that I had last gone on a trek. Unfortunately, I still can’t remember, except that I can put it down to around 2001-02 or thereabouts.

But with a clutch of friends agreeing on a specific date for travel, we hit the Tunganath trail recently – Ajitha’s first trail ever, my first in ages.

The connecter is little Chopta, that you reach after a seven-hour drive from Hrishikesh. Tunganath is one of the five Kedars, and is along the route to Kedarnath and Badrinath, except that it breaks off from around Rudrapayag (of Corbett’s man-eating leopard fame, an event that is 'immortalised' by a single small rectangular plaque in the middle of nowhere). Then on to Ukhimath onward to Chopta.

Chopta is interesting, in that it’s not really a ‘place’. It’s just a group of temporary stalls/shops and a couple of quaint rest-houses that vanish in the off-season only to resurface when the tourist season starts. We were the first tourists of the season – which starts only around late August – and that meant a lot of very happy hosts who were willing to do a little more for us than they would otherwise.

There’s little else to Chopta in terms of tangible attractions, but if you are a mountain person, there are a couple of rolling valleys and meadows and walks – and you can catch a beautiful sunset if you’re lucky – we weren’t, it was cloudy.

The four-kilometre trek to Tunganath starts from Chopta itself – from just behind our rest-house actually – and while it doesn’t sound like much as far as treks go, it’s a steep upward climb that takes close to three hours (at least for us huffing, puffing, middle-aged sorts). The skies weren’t clear, overnight rain had left a lot of rocks a’slippery, and there was more than one serene spot that begged us to sit down and light up a smoke. Ajitha proved to be a surprisingly steady walker, while our regular trekkers like Mangar and Toy kept good pace. I stuck to a steady last spot.

Confession: We had taken along a couple of khacchars – ostensibly to carry our luggage, but often to carry members of our troupe.

Having started at about 9.00am, we reached Tunganath at around mid-day, the last stretch a bit wet as the skies opened up.

But what a stunning place Tunganath is! The Kedar itself is a small temple, but the rocks around it were brilliant. On one side of the temple is a valley with its share of meadows, while on the other, there’s a rocky mountain slope with some of the steepest cliffs I have ever seen. Prayers were not priority, but figuring out all the sights certainly were. And the few hours post lunch were spent exploring the valley, and catching a bit of shut-eye (okay, I was the only one doing it).

Incidentally, at a height of 3865 metres in the Garhwal Himalayas, Tunganath is one of the highest temples in the world, if not the highest.

Back again to Chopta in the evening with the promise of leaving early the next morning for Sari gaon, and then on to another trek up to Deoriya Taal, highly recommended by Sangeeta, another fellow traveller.

Now, while Tunganath and Chopta don’t have any electricity, Sari gaon is quite an advanced village with a lot of your usual modern amenities and, importantly, electricity. The trek to Deoriya Taal starts from Sari gaon itself, and is a shorter but comparatively steeper trek than the Tunganath trek. But having done the longer trek the day before and having rediscovered our mountain hooves, it wasn’t too tough. All right, I was still lagging some distance behind everyone else, but that’s as maybe.

I don’t think there’s a single mountainous place in the world that is anything but stunning, and Deoriya Taal was no different. The walk leading up to the Taal was the most glorious part, with a Kalatop-ish stretch just before you come face to face with the Taal. Varuni suggested that there’s no way a Taal could exist there, right at the top of the mountain, but there it was.

Admittedly, it’s become a bit of tourism-friendly place, with a clutch of dark green dustbins and manicured stretches, but the Taal itself is breathtaking. Deep forests surround it, rolling meadows cup it, and green, green water flows inside it, making it about as picturesque as picturesque gets.

Then of course, it was time to return – obviously, after spending the night at Sari gaon… and waking up to a day of weaving through the blasted kanwariyas…!

PS: Have got some superb photographs, but again, in the old format. So maybe after we are done getting them scanned, I will put them up. These stills are from the Net.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Bina Srinivasan

Another good person gone. Around the end of May this year, the Narmada Bachao Andolan had lost one of its best soldiers - Sanjay Sangvai. Just got a mail from the NBA that Bina Srinivasan is no more either. She had been battling pneumonia for a while. She failed.

It's another little loss for the people of the valley. Happy Independence Day.

Obituary by Nandini Oza
Bina Srinivasan, a strong pillar of the NBA in Vadodra, Gujarat, passed away today early morning (late night yesterday). She was one of those very few in Gujarat who stood through thick and thin with the NBA, braving all risks and threats right from the time of Chimanbhai Patel when the NBA was constantly defamed and threatened. She always rushed to be with the NBA, particularly when the NBA office was attacked. She spent a lot of her time working with the oustees of Gujarat, actively helping to make the programmes of the NBA in Gujarat successful by being part of fact-finding teams during the time of repression, working as a translator for many of the non-Hindi/Gujarati speaking visitors of the NBA, was a great help during the time of the Morse Committee submissions, etc.

Her support to the NBA goes beyond all of this. She personally helped the NBA activists and her house in Vadodara was always open to all. Her contribution to the NBA cannot be expressed in words. For those NBA activists in Vadodara, it is a loss beyond repair.

Bina was not only an NBA supporter but also a very senior women's rights activist. For many years she was active with "Swashraya", an organisation working in the bastis with the poorest of poor rag-picking women in Vadodara. She contributed to the women's right's movement at the national level in a very significant way.

A writer by profession, many of her articles on women, environment and human rights issues have been published in national newspapers and magazines. Her first book, "Negotiating Complexities - A collection of Feminist Essays", was published this year.

Since the demolition of the Babri Masjid, Bina's life and work took a new turn. Her main concern and work since then was to fight the fundamentalist forces in Gujarat, support the minority community in most adverse of circumstances, during riots and the recent carnage in Gujarat.

She remained a fighter throughout her life in one of the most oppressive and fundamentalist of states - Gujarat. For the NBA, it is a loss of a true friend and pillar.

Obituary by Rohit Prajapati
Our friend & colleague Bina Srinivasan passed away on 13th August 2007 early morning due to severe pneumonia, after remaining hospitalised for two days.

Comrade Bina was a feminist writer and researcher. She was also a Human Rights activist and active member of People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), Vadodara. She had worked intensively with women's movements both nationally and internationally. She worked with an organisation called 'Swashraya', which focused on women in Baroda slums. This gave her insights into the lives of the urban poor in Indian cities. It also brought her to look at issues of displacement and its specific impact on women. Through research and activism she was involved with issues like violence against women, impact of conflict and fundamentalism on women. She traveled extensively and was also part of the Co-ordination Group of the Feminist Dialogues. She was currently working on women who have been internally displaced due to conflict.

Her demise is a huge loss for the Women's Movements and the movements for Human Rights. PUCL (Baroda) and Shanti Abhiyan, has been meeting regularly to discuss strategies and methods to combat the ongoing repression on the downtrodden masses.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Bravo to Materazzi!


France coach Raymond Domenech says Italy defender Marco Materazzi did the right thing by getting Zinedine Zidane sent off in last year's World Cup final, calling him the man-of-the-match.

"In the World Cup final, you score a goal, get the best opposing player sent off and you score your penalty. No matter what you tell me about Andrea Pirlo, Materazzi was man-of-the-match," Domenech said in an interview published in the Daily Le Parisien.

Zidane's headbutt on Materazzi - who had been taunting him - was one of the defining images of the final that Italy won on penalties. The France midfielder was sent off, ending his stellar career with a red card.

Zidane had given France a 1-0 lead on a penalty, before Materazzi equalised for Italy with the score 1-1 until the penalty shootout. Pirlo was named the game's top player, while Materazzi was vilified in France. But Domenech refused to criticise him in the Le Parisien interview, saying that provoking opponents exist in all sports. "On the field, all means which consist of destabilising your opponent and using his weak points are positive for the team. Materazzi was the man for the World Cup. I say bravo to him," Domenech said.