The push from the peak – Why drop Ganguly?

January 22, 2008

“Why should we select players who have got just one or two years left to play. We want to build a India cricket team for the future,”  says Vengasarkar.

I can’t help asking back, why drop a player when he still has one or two years left to play. Is one year so cheap a commodity that you can throw it to the dustbin? Future has to be built with the ruins of the past, not by ruining the past.

Ganguly is now at the peak of his powers, effort and determination. The descent from the peak has to be a slow and deliberate process or a calculated flight with a smooth landing; it cannot be so abrubt a fall. Here is a man who,through his majestic comeback, has given a new definition for determination and through this steely captaincy earlier, had shaped the character of this team. And our selectors treat him like an undeserving  beggar who has intruded onto the stage uninvited.

I am not even talking about Dravid yet. There is a gross misjudgement regarding Dravid. He plays slowly in a test because it is required to be done so. He has a different approach to the shorter version in the recent past, which the selectors and critics are overlooking. (To deviate a little, on the contrary, I think Sehwag is a pure test player, who, because of his dashing game, is expected to repeat his success in one-dayers, which he has repeatedly failed to do. He would be better off playing only test matches.). However, more than Dravid (or Laxman who was never in the picture anyway), Ganguly’s ommision is completely unwarranted, given his record and potential in one-dayers.

If age is the only criteria for selection, the selectors should rather be watching reality shows on TV than wasting time at international and first class matches (if at all they do) to assess the performance of players in challenging match conditions.


In search of satisfaction

January 21, 2008

Satisfaction has become the most elusive commodity for most people employed in high-paid white collar jobs. Companies have been spending millions of dollars on initiatives focused on retaining its employees or improving employee satisfaction scores, all to no avail.

What is the core of the issue? Is it because employees are underpaid? No, technology, sales and finance jobs were never more rewarding than now. Is it because employees are not given responsibilities? No, people take on massive responsibilities very early in their careers. Is it because there are overworked? Absolutely no, people are addicted to work and are willing to work non-stop when the need arises. On the contrary, most dissatisfaction stems up when they are underworked. Are bad bosses driving people crazy? No, many people are dissatisfied in spite of excellent rapport with their bosses.

Why then, these endless waves of exasperation? Why then, all this blogging and online community networking, while at work? Why then, the continuous monitoring of the clock, which seems to be ever so slow?

What is it that the modern day educated smart workers want? Did not our parents do the same monotonous jobs for ages without complaining (even if they did complain, without ever thinking of quiting at all)? My mother has been a cashier for 35 years and if she had earned a percent of what she has counted in all her life, I would never have had to work. Can’t we still see so many other people, not privileged to be so educated, toiling in their jobs without ever bothering to complain – like the traffic policeman, lift operator, cab driver, bus conductor and all others involved in hard physical labour? What makes our young educated generation so special that we are perpetualy dissatisfied?

If you were looking for well researched answers at the end of all my questions, I dont have any. If I believe in fate, I would have simply concluded that this generation of educated youth is doomed to be dissatisfied. I dont believe and I can only speculate about the answers.

One glaring aspect in modern corporate culture, is the complete lack of emotional attachment with the company. Companies which have managed to instill a sense of purpose, pride and emotional bonding have succeeded in creating a conducive environment for people to enjoy their work. Once I visited Taj Lake Palace at Udaipur and everyone there, from the receptionist to the sweeper, was wishing me and greeting me, with a broad natural smile, even when no supervisor was in sight.

Very few have managed to do this and most companies do not even attempt to create an emotionally charged workplace. They try to appease their employees by offering more money, better infrastructure, overseas trips and friendly policies without ever touching that emotional chord. I believe that this emotional vacuum is what sucks employees into the endless cycle of discontent. They quit and move to another place which offers them even more money, still better infrastructure or posts them abroad. The result is the same. The same vicious waves of dissatisfaction.

The next challenge to the capitalist society is not going to come from the proleteriat-bourgeoisie class divide (it is difficult to tell the difference between the two now) but from the inherent, seemingly purposeless discontent simmering among the educated youth.


Oh Federer!

January 21, 2008

Even as India was on its march to an improbable victory over an invincible Australian cricket team at Perth, there was another man in Australia who was demonstrating what invincibility is all about.

We had seen Laxman, the previous day, giving rest to his artistic wrists and slugging it out with hard work and patience to place India in a position of strength. Now, it was the turn of the other sports-artist, Federer, to do some hard work. And how he did it!

Nirmal Shekar, writing in The Hindu, summed it up beautifully : “It was one of those days — a day when you suddenly found yourself having to throw away the much-used Roger Federer lexicon, so handy when it comes to authoring one Festschrift (German term for celebration writing) after another, and, instead, employ words unheard of vis-À-vis Federer’s performances — words such as strife and struggle and fallibility and weakness.”

Federer never looked like winning. His game was awfully off the mark. Except a strong serve, everything else had strangely deserted him. Anybody watching Federer for the first time would have refused to believe he is a great player. But he won, against an opponent who was refusing to lose. People always doubted if Federer has the mental resilence required for a great champion. They should watch this match. They will realise that he never could demonstrate his resilence before as he never allowed his resilence to be tested.

The only reason, I believe, why Federer won today was because he simply could not come to terms with the fact that he was losing, so early in a major. And then, the fact changed.

When asked in the post match interview, he admitted that the probability of defeat crossed his mind sometimes. I doubt it. I think he was just being polite and diplomatic before a large crowd. If ever he thought he could lose, he would have lost. He knew, all along, he can’t lose. He just had to play differently and ‘demonstrate his resilence’.


Undersung, if not unsung, heroes of tennis

January 17, 2008

Sania has made it again to the third round in a Grand Slam. Chances are quite high that she will fall to Venus. But it is a credit to Sania that we are talking about ‘chances’ instead of a firm certainty. She truely belongs to the Top 30 now. This, to my mind (I am no less a fan of cricket than tennis), is a bigger achievement than most of what Indian cricket team has done or not been able to do. For the simple reason that the stage is huge, competition is tougher and Indian women were nowhere in the picture till Sania came along. There was only a Nirupama Vaidyanathan before Sania who even hardcore tennis enthusiasts might only just about remember. Today people from more countries know Sania than Sachin. Ofcourse, it is a different fact that the Sachin is a household name in cricketing nations, which still Sania is not, even in India.

Krishnans and Amritrajs have all been lonely unsung warriors on the tennis circuit who have waged many a valient battle against some of the biggest stars. Mahesh Bhupati has been on top of the world in doubles. But the two persons who really deserve more than a passing mention in the history of Indian sports are Sania and Leander.

Sania for being the first Indian woman to break into the top, the importance of which will dawn a few years later when more women come through. Sania is a tennis equivalent of a Kapil Dev or Vishwanathan Anand, who paved the way for other Indians to enter hitherto uncharttered territories.

Leander for being Leander, a man who has given more than his best everytime he adorned the India colours.  From the first time, well past midnight India time during a chilly winter in France, when as an young lad he made many hearts skip many beats and tricolour flutter, playing 100 notches above his usual level, to the time when as old warhorse he was fighting cramps and a Pakistani player through five sets,  Leander continues to be a real patriotic superhero, consistently. If determination can overcome physical abilities, possibilities and barriers, it is always on display when Leander plays in Davis Cup or Olympics.


Thank you,Mr. Tata, but where do I park my car

January 11, 2008

Mr.Pachori and Ms.Sunita Narain can scream on top of their voices about environmental pollution and global warming. I, the common man of India, don’t give a fig. I need a respectable means of transport and I am glad you thought about it, Mr.Tata. I thank you profusely for it.

I am tired of driving my scooter behind a stinking garbage truck blowing black CO2 on my face. I am tired and scared of driving with my kids and wife on a single bike in this unbelievable traffic. As you have rightly pointed out, it might rain anytime and I may not find a place to take shelter.

I am tired of hanging on the footboards of overcrowded buses and gasping for my breath in the hostile crowds of the local trains. And worse, I never know, when my pocket will be picked.

I am tired of haggling with the auto drivers over every extra penny that they demand or fleece through faulty meters.  

I will listen to the likes of Pachori when I see merit in what they say. I will gladly purchase a CFL lamp instead of a bulb, not just because it is environment friendly, but because it is a better product. It is brighter and cheaper in the long run. It makes sound economic sense. 

I am not going to listen to Mr.Pachori on this issue. When the whole world has been driving a car for years, I have rarely even got into a taxi. A car has been the collective dream of our family right from the time of my grandparents. When I am offered an opportunity to buy a car, I dont want to be denied the chance to realise my dream, with talks on global warming and environmental pollution. Where were all these arguments when Henry Ford made those gas guzzling black cars available to the then common man in America? 

I am all for your car Mr. Tata.  By my standards, it is still an expensive indulgence, but not entirely out of my reach. I will somehow manage to pool in my savings and take a loan and buy your car. I will somehow manage the extra outflow for fuel. Maybe I will use public transport more often and take out my car only when I really need it or go out with my family, to compensate for the additional expense (this must be music to Mr.Pachori’s ears). 

But Mr.Tata, I have only one apprehension. I stay deep down in a narrow gully – my bike just about squeezes through. Where do I park my car? 


The Kite Runner – review

January 10, 2008

How soon my views can be challenged? While reviewing Cuckold, I had argued in favour of a great story ahead of complex literary techniques. Many believe the The Kite Runner has a great story to tell and a moving story. Yes, the story is interesting and at times, moving. Yes, the book has enough to be a pageturner. But something is missing.

By no stretch of imagination can Kite Runner be classified as a great or even a good piece of literature. At best, it is an interesting story with impeccable timing of publishing, when the world, and Americans in particular, wanted to know more about Afghanistan. A few years earlier or a few years later, the Khaled Hosseini could have struggled to find a publisher and even if he did, the book would have got nowhere closer to the best sellers list.

The novel is written, clearly with the Western audience in mind. As a result, there is over-elaboration of events and words when not required and over-simplification of issues. If one wants to understand the thread of the Afghan society and the reasons for the rise of fundamentalist Taliban, this book doesn’t offer any answers. Super-imposing the school-bully-sociopath character of Aseef on Taliban is a shortcut the author should have avoided taking – this is straight out of mainstream cinema. Schindler’s List also had such a character but the depiction was with much more clarity – it came out quite certainly that a socio-path uses the cover of a fundamentalist racist regime to unleash his inner evil. But I think there is much more to religious fundamentalism than just the whims of a socio-path.

However most Americans might love such a depiction of Taliban – an organization consisting of cruel socio-paths and paedophiles, who supervise footballers running around in full trousers. This explains why the book was a major success. Nobody is interested to know why religious fundamentalism arose, how the common man, whithout whose support this cannot happen, is drawn towards the fundamentalist. Definitely the author is not interested into getting into deeper layers of the psyche of a fundamentalist society.

Kite Runner succeeds in exploring the impact and fallout of personal guilt. Otherwise, there are no pretensions of creating a piece of literature. Maybe, the book has been more than successful in achieving what it set out to achieve – it had just fallen into the hands of a wrong reader to elicit such scathing criticism.


India in Cricket Catch-22

January 8, 2008

Sanjay Manjrekar, Bishen Bedi and many others were eloquently arguing the case for continuing the Aussie tour – the best way India can reply to Aussie taunts is by beating them. These proponents of dont-boycott line were supposedly taking a non-emotional view of the racial slur and umpiring blunders. However such an expectation is as unreasonable as the viewpoint of the proponents on the other side arguing for the team to come back. Expecting to beat Australia is fine, it is quite possible with a little more determination, as we have seen in Sydney. But Sydney was India’s best chance, which has already slipped by; beating Aussies at Perth is a bit far-fetched.

The bouncy track of Perth is not the battlefield, where you can wage an emotional must-win war against the Aussies. India doesnt have the firepower to match the Aussie pace machine and more importantly, Indian batsmen do not have the skill sets to take on Aussies at Perth. To make matters worse, India in all likelihood, will go into this match grossly underprepared due to the uncertainty surronding the tour now.

Ironically, Indian team have put themselves in a situation where they cannot drop Harbhajan Singh after so much has transpired. To play 2 pace bowlers-2 spinners combination at Perth is asking for disaster. Will Kumble dare to place cricket logic ahead of emotional compulsions? I doubt it; the wounded warrior will not be rested. Whether Harbhajan plays or not, India hardly have even an outside chance of a win at Perth.

Indians must however, decide fast, whether the tour is on or not. No point in reaching an inevitable agreement when it is too late for any practice. In the final bargain, India will end up losing either ways. Aussies have already had their victory without giving India a chance for retribution, which cannot happen at Perth. Maybe Adelaide – if Indian team is not entirely demoralised after Perth.

Addendum:

Day 2, Perth : India holds the upperhand – to my sweet surprise. Kumble has indeed placed cricketing logic ahead of sentiment and not played Harbhajan. For once, I am happy to be proven wrong so far.

Addendum 2:

Day 4, Perth : India wins. I had to eat my words and never have words tasted sweeter. But India did two things they had to do right – they went to Canberra for the practice match early enough and they played Pathan ahead of Harbhajan.