The delaying warrior – Dhoni

Shane Warne said- there is no such thing like an honorable defeat in semifinal of world cup. Saurav Ganguly and Brian Lara echoed the thought. The asking rate was over 10 runs and over. No urgency was shown by Dhoni. It became 12 and kept rising.

Harsha Bhogle dwelled in stats about Dhoni remaining not out in Indian wins while chasing. He praised the remarkable record and then said – Maybe he won’t go after the bowling, he might just bat out the 50 overs! Dismay? Sarcasm?

Sanjay Manjrekar had earlier commented upon India’s winning streak that they had faced only one team that is generally considered superior- South Africa ,during the course of reaching the knockout.

So how was India’s world cup campaign? 7 wins and a loss look impressive but it was hollow and forgetful. India never challenged Australia especially when they were batting. It has on paper some record shattering names but of no avail. Rohit Sharma has two double hundreds in ODIs, Virat Kohli has more hundreds than the entire New Zealand team, and Suresh IPL Raina blasts 87 runs in 25 balls! (you may read again, it remains true) but no one seemed to have a clue how to manage this chase.  Including Dhoni, often hailed as one who can chase anything.

I could never praise Dhoni’s tactics. To me, all he does is randomizing the matches – simply put, stretching them till the last over or the last few deliveries. Why do we need to do so? To be called a finisher?  Yes, the numbers are in his favor but time and again he is found short against the better teams.  It is one thing to collect wins in meaningless home bilateral (mainly against Sri Lanka), and quite another in high voltage, foreign soil battles.

All the major wins Dhoni has collected are in the period where Australia was passing through the lean period – 2007(McGrath, Warne, Gilchrist retirement) to 2013 (emergence of Mitchell Johnson and now Starc). In the period, the field was level and all teams could defeat each other. Emerging winner in such times is still praiseworthy but let’s look a bit deeper. Five of the T20 World Cups, to which Dhoni lays so much emphasis, have gone to different countries. Even England and West Indies have won once.  It is a lottery and would remain so. Yes, the 2011 World cup did fall in India’s lap but again there were hardly any challengers – South Africa yet again faltered and only Sri Lanka was left to challenge India.

In terms of results masking the shortcomings, 2011 World cup victory was a great example. Even Yuvraj Singh’s Man of the Series performance was over bloated – awards against Ireland, West Indies?

After 2011 Mumbai final, writers and journalists have extoled Dhoni’s innings to the levels of De Silva’s masterclass whereas every one forgets Gautam Gambhir’s capital innings which laid the foundation of the chase. It was his innings that settled the match. When Dhoni came on, there was a set batsman at the crease, no threat, no mounting run rate, no swing or spin, no openings for Sri Lanka and most importantly, two batsmen waiting in the dugout. One of those two would claim the player of the tournament award. Simply put, there was nothing in Dhoni’s innings that mandated so fulsome a praise.

On Thursday, he sold off India’s little chances in a yet another attempt to play his game of randomness. What did he expect? Clarke and men would get excited, make mistakes, throw wides or no balls overthrows, and drop catches? Dhoni’s play was bereft of any planning. It was questionable and an outright contempt to India’s purpose. When the asking rate is 10, no one including Viv Richards, would stay calm, especially against the best bowling attacks.  The target wasn’t 80 in 10, it was 130! You cannot leave the chase to the tail.

What I found most amusing is that a piece on NDTV read:  Dhoni continued fighting till the end. Dhoni is certainly a good player but is much over rated. It is time India showers praise with care.

My house in Singapore

Seven years ago, when I was about to buy my first house in Singapore through a young agent, who in fact was the agent for the seller but acted as a double, a shock awaited me. My agent took the option money of five thousand dollars and submitted the papers. I applied for the loan and got it approved. Now, I had to exercise the loan in four months and complete the deal otherwise I would lose five thousand dollars. I had the money to proceed so it seemed all fine. This was mid April.

On first May, the agent said I can’t buy the house. I called him to find out the reason; he replied every block has a quota on the basis of ethnicity. Indian quota is filled up in that block and so I was ineligible. Until this quota for Indians turns green, nothing could be done. I found out that on every first day of the month, the housing and development board website refreshes the quota. I waited till June- red, July – still red.
I had now two months to exercise the loan otherwise I was facing a loss of 12 thousand dollars! Seven thousand for not initiating the loan! What’s more, the contract of my rented house was nearing end in three months.
How did I feel?

Frustrated. I didn’t show but the blood was boiling inside.
This is the Singapore. A place where collective interests are kept higher than individuals. The rules can’t be bent. The country is benefitted by prevention of ethnic conglomeration, so even if a person loses his money, it doesn’t matter.

What? 12 thousand dollars don’t matter?

Yes, I realized.
I held some discussions with my seller who agreed to rent me the house after two months. But it was a little comfort in the mess I found myself in.

I come from India, where such a situation would be handled by one phone from the minister, a legislator, or even from a mafia don. Where to get these people in Singapore? They all would still tell me the same- I should have been careful before shelling out your money.
These and numerous other rules bind the Singapore residents. After breathing the air of Singapore for eight years, I realize that all it needs to be a little savvy. Life in Singapore is not a tight ropewalk, but a careful one, unlike other nations where a bit more liberty is allowed. It all repays to you, in the form of clean, safe, working systems. Your wife works late, has to travel in public transport, you don’t care. Do you need anything more?

In Singapore, your time sometimes is snatched and is given to hundreds, it may peeve you, but not to get annoyed is the key. Your money is taken and used for facilities that you may never use.  Your patience is tested by slower traffic, to allow more people to reach office on time. Your convenience is tested in the form of barriers, rerouting, and everlasting constructions. You are forced to be one among the rest.

Every decision is taken for the benefit of the Singapore. Individual happiness matter less than the collective joy. Which is fine, isn’t it? After all, you only need a safe, secure and a progressive life. If you eye your neighbours’ income more than yours, this may not be the life for you.
Like all stories, my housing story ended happily too. In August, the month of my birthday, Indian quota was green. I got my house in Singapore. As I said, my patience was tested!

 

Death of a Bowler

India was strolling along towards 330 plus total against South Africa, who came back remarkably. It was an empowering moment for me, because it restored the faith that running away batting units can be halted. This kind of braking was an everyday happening twenty years ago, when faster bowlers, generally the team’s best, came back after relaxing at fine leg or long on, and clipped the rising run rate.

Surely this happened to India because the attack had Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel. Though it happened to India against Pakistan too, but then Pakistan could not stop the West Indies, admittedly a lesser skilled batting unit. So, this extraordinary halt was due to South Africa’s superior attack.

How many other such attacks we have? None. Not even Australia at the moment has such a spirited battery of faster bowlers who can stop rampaging batsmen.

Consider this: From overs 39 to 46, two well set batsmen, trying to accelerate the scoring, were at the crease. At the beginning of 39th over, Rahane’s strike rate was 125 and Dhawan’s 87. When they both departed by 46th over, Rahane had improved only to 131 while Dhawan ended at 93. Clearly, they had not managed to shred the attack. Curiously though, they managed to hit a few Sixes but only two of these overs went over 10 runs and none exceeded 15.

Where are such bowlers of the world? Well, they are killed. By T20. Since 2004, when Steyn entered the scene, the world has not seen emergence of any future great bowler.  Mitchel Johnson maybe, but he’s yet to earn a reputation of winning matches everywhere. No spinner has emerged who is half as good and Warne or Murali. Can a 180 be ever defended? So is this the end?

Steyn clearly is the leader of bowlers but he is getting lonely. I view him as a drowning man, who is barely able to stay above the water level. No one is around to hold his hand or to let him rest a while.

Look what has happened to bowlers like Steven Finn. Six, Six Six.. Six. Is he that bad? When you bowl the worst, you can expect all deliveries to be hit for six. That is the default state.  Now you are certainly not bowling the worst, and you are certainly not the worst bowler but still you are every time hit for a six.  How do we explain that? The T20 has totally destroyed a bowler’s confidence. Afternoon starts with no swing, heavy bats, pulled in boundaries and no fielders to protect, what can the bowler do? Wait for the end of the match?

In every sport, the unit of success is to be kept high. Like tennis has points and soccer has goals, cricket has boundaries and wickets. While wickets are becoming harder to earn, boundaries are getting easier by the day. The balance of game is ever grotesque now.  But it is not the worst yet. AB brought the fastest hundred record to 31 deliveries, just fourteen away from the ceiling of 17!

The countdown has begun- sub 30, sub 25… sub 20.

That will be the burial day for the bowler. And bowling machines will be ordered.

IPL Killing Pakistan cricket?

India Pakistan match in the 2015 world cup was insipid. Hardly justifying the huge attendance and the anticipation. Not only Pakistan capitulated meekly but they never seem to match the aggression of the Indians – something that Indian fans wished in their team in encounters in the eighties and nineties.

Some of my friends arranged pub space to live the experience, and though they won’t reveal, they would have been utterly disappointed, provided they are fans of exciting sport (resulting of course, in victory for your team). Did it give the joy of 1999 or 2003 victory?

Granted, India is a more balanced side, at least in terms of batting, with a combination of solid batters, hitters and competent all round batsmen, but the lack of competition in the game was appalling. Though India has beaten South Africa as well, with a greater margin but that match was overall nicely balanced than their match against Pakistan. South Africa had their chances throughout the match, they came back strongly to save at least 30 runs and could have gone on had ABD not decided to go for an impossible run. Mind you, he was out by a whisker, any other mortal would have been out by a mile.

Coming back to Pakistan, the worsening relations with India are really hurting their cricket. The reason might be IPL. Pakistan players are out of IPL since 2009 and while all other teams have developed ferocious hitters except of course, England, Pakistan is struggling to grow batsmen who can post competitive totals. Apart from Saeed Ajmal, who is out for his action remodeling, their bowlers too haven’t grown to the demands of modern power hitting limited overs game.

All other teams, even Bangladesh, have a few players who can bat with strike rates in excess of 150, but Pakistan is still relying on old timers like Afridi, who I must admit has an extremely poor conversion rate.

India, clearly, has benefitted from IPL tremendously. IPL has generated hitherto unheard hitting prowess in many batsmen and Indian players are the greatest beneficiaries. Where else you can hope to cart the world’s best fast bowler for over twenty runs in an over? Imagine the confidence of the batsman after that. I get a feeling that India would not have remained competitive if IPL wasn’t born.

Admittedly, India has slumped in test cricket and bowling is getting thinner and thinner by the year, but the batsmen have flourished. Indian batsmen repeatedly through IPL, get chances to chase at 10 or 12 an over, which becomes 18-20 of the last over, a training which Pakistan batsmen sorely lack.  Until 2006, Pakistan had power hitters who could score quickly at the end of the innings, catapulting their solid middle order’s efforts to huge totals(of the era), but now they are bereft of any batting resources.  Believe it or not, the West Indies have survived by their exposure in IPL; otherwise, they would have been long dead.

Like in any arena, if you miss the most defining movement, it is an uphill task to catch up. In the seventies, county experience mattered, now it is the IPL.

Pakistan cricket has been a victim of their Politics. For once, the politics is hurting cricket.

The Delhi Verdict

The Delhi election had a clear verdict: the nation’s capital no longer believes in any of the political parties. The two national parties, eyeing a few seats in the assembly were wiped off – one in power less than 15 months ago, the other, who has all seven sitting MPs and holds a government at the centre. Who was second or third is immaterial.

True, the assembly elections are for Chief Minister and not for premiership of the nation. But, to consider voters so smart is slightly generous. Elections are won on waves, on the general mood of the nation and mostly on anti-incumbency. There are exceptions, but mostly Indian politics is moulded, shaped and coloured on the three stated grounds.

The examples of Uttar Pradesh elections, won by Samajwadi party and subsequently by BJP in Lok Sabha are not pertinent to the Delhi verdict. Assembly elections in UP were a mere reversal of a cloth worn by largely ill informed and manoeuvrable UP voter, who is presently not able to see beyond the two parties who have a strong base and are able to swing the requisite “neutral” voters to win elections. What happens in 2017 though will be interesting.

Amit Shah’s delivery of UP Lok Sabha is praiseworthy and is largely a reason Modi is able to reach the top spot. What was responsible for the massive number of seats in UP?

  1. BJP’s realization that parliamentary majority is not possible without UP and hence an early preparation.
  2. Congress’s failure at the centre and its not letting the voters know what it has done, notwithstanding the widespread perception of corruption.
  3. Samajwadi party’s expected less than ordinary performance, poor law and order, ill-timed Sai Fai festival and foolishly handled case of IAS officer Durga.
  4. And so on and so forth…

 

Moving on to Modi’s victory in the Lok Sabha election. Let us see the timeline as a run up to the elections.

Up to July 2011: BJP looks like it has given up. It has no plans how to run a campaign against an embattled Congress, who is widely maligned for corruption across the nation.

August 2011: Anna Hazare starts his agitation for Lok Pal. His arrest and stay in Tihar is compared to the rising at Tahirir. Congress’s incompetency to handle Anna dents it. Limited say in parliament leaves them scratching fingernails. BJP, mind you, is as clueless as ever.

UP elections March 2012: Samajwadi party turns tables on arch rivals. No surprises there. Since when Mayawati and Co. become good enough to earn a second term? Congress, dying across the nation after 8 years of anti-incumbency, loses further ground. BJP is still the also ran, unsure what to do.

 

Times passes. India is on face book now. Twitter and whatsapp are gaining users by the day. BJP’s fed up workforce tries to infuse life in the party by clamouring for a change in leadership. They pick up on Social media and ultimately the leadership hears their cries to bring on Modi. Why Modi? Why not equally successful MP’s Chief Minister? Well because Modi represents the face of Hindutva after Godhara and has also earned a name by winning his third term in Gujarat. To be brutally honest why Modi – because Guajaratis have more money. Countless updates on Modi flood the face book. RSS and other Hindu groups back Modi as well. He gets the boarding pass to Delhi.

Dec 2012: A rape case rings the entire nation. While the government can hardly do a thing to prevent it, the wrath of public again falls on the ruling party at the centre. People burn meaningless candles, flock at the gates of the Gandhis, persuade them to appear and make a statement, as if they sheltering the rapists. Sheila Dixit doesn’t help by saying that she has no control of Delhi Police. If she had, what would have changed? Who listens to such statements? Congress is even more beleaguered.

2013: Kejriwal forms a party and decides to run for elections in Delhi. He starts his campaign and evokes positive responses all around Delhi. People across the country join his bandwagon. In between, he is beaten by Police for meddling with a Congress Minister. Congress, who is now cornered from all fronts, is even more forlorn.

Posts on face book comparing Kejriwal and Rahul Gandhi become regularity. Nehru Gandhi dynasty is not spared either. Congress clearly does not have an active, smart workforce to counter this while BJP’s NRI and rich Gujarati community takes a head start on social media. For the first time in India, elections might be decided on the social media. Pause here and recall now when did you create your face book account. 2009? 2010? At least you became active only after 2010. Like millions.

Neutral observers start believing that Rahul Gandhi is a bigger joker than a Laalu Yadav. His interview with Arnav Goswami becomes a rage on You Tube. In direct comparison to the Ace of Spades Modi, Gandhi is a two of clubs. All this was not possible without social media, where the opponents can not only be maligned but can be stripped and ravaged too. Something undiscovered before 2009. Newspaper advertisements can extol you but can’t take a jibe at your rivals.

In the eighties, cartoons appeared in elite magazines like India Today and were seen by the privileged. Now cartoons travel on WhatsApp, faster than light, and penetrate the educated and the boorish alike.

Congress implants Pranab Mukherjee as the President but has no one to fill the crucial North block portfolio. A lacklustre figure of Shinde fills in the position- another weak step by the Congress. Delhi is handed over before the elections.

Kejriwal storms Delhi in Dec 2013, becomes the Chief Minister. BJP wins the rest of the states as Congress is oblivious now. A very fortunate BJP gains by the agitation started by Anna and Kejriwal, Congress’s failure to strengthen itself in states, and by its own sensible performance in states like MP, Gujarat and Rajasthan.

Media is shocked at Kejriwal and his entourage’s impish advances and does not spare him and his party AAP. He too acts like a wild lion and bites everyone who challenges him. He even threatens to disrupt the Republic day. All this is immensely benefitting the BJP, who is just beginning to feel confident of gaining a majority for NDA. Yes NDA.

Soon comes the blunder of the decade- the one which literally hands Modi the Government on a platter. Kejriwal resigns after 49 days. Media, the BJP and even the moribund congress is relieved. A point proven- AAP were the pretenders, when the actual act came, they escaped and are still unabashedly trying to sing the Lok Pal jingle. Shame on these idiots.

Kejriwal further fumbles. Challenges Modi in his den. Hollow bravado. He himself would know he has no chance but insists on an arm wrestle. Loses.  The list of his enemies is growing by now- from Ambanis to Rajat Sharma, who calls him a liar on his show. Kejriwal is slapped in the meetings. God knows by whom. BJP’s social media now paints him a joker on the face book. Jokes on his muffler, slaps, and escapist attitude inundate the social media.

BJP’s media team is working overtime now. Congress is no threat. Neo politics guy is thrown overboard. Anna is silent. The coast is clear. They can now safely project their once maligned, US visa-denied, cornered leader as a saviour of the nation. Jokes multiply on opponents- with triple speed now. A joke appears on WhatsApp before the headline hits the NDTV. Modi is the Lion, Shinde the dog, Rahul Gandhi the mouse…

The road to Delhi and coast is clear.

Modi as PM. Dream realized. Gujarati NRIs head back home to US. They exhale so loudly that I could smell of khakhras in Singapore.

A few months later, Kejriwal lands in Jail. Elections lost, future uncertain, party depleted, what else can go wrong?

Fortunately for him, the tide was turned three years ago. That BJP rode it is a different story.

 

Within 7 months of a massive mandate, BJP and Modi are ignored by the Capital’s voters. Why?

AAP and Kejriwal did nothing new. In fact, save his apology for resigning in 2014, he is still his abrasive old self. Delhi was a huge loss to the BJP. The reasons? Can be millions. New CM candidate, ignoring old stalwarts, de-motivated workers, Bedi sounding haughty, Modi not providing enough toilets…

The only reason is…

But before that. Don’t assume it is a victory of democracy. This is again a wave. In a democracy, people vote for a representative. In India, that no longer happens. In fact, it has never happened. But this wave is a confirmation that country is finally cajoling those who have an alternative to lead a better life, to come to politics and clean it. This is an ode to the MBAs, IASs, Engineers, and IITians…

The reason is lack of trust on BJP, Congress, BSP, SP… All those who are ruling anywhere. Wherever an alternative is present, they’ll be thrown out. Bengal and Tamil Nadu exempted.

Everyone has to ask one question. What does this man Kejriwal has which I lack? Apparently, it is the honesty, and an image whose cleanliness has passed the transparency test of media’s relentless grill and has survived long enough. In the eighties, clean image was a perception, today, it better be a reality. Otherwise, it won’t last a day. Kejriwal’s middle class white shirt is clean, even after Delhi’s mud bath.

BJP must act reasonably now and hope for the best in 2017 UP elections. It stands to lose in both scenarios. Loss would further dent, victory will add to the misery by adding a monkey called UP on its back, a monkey that might scratch them before 2019 elections.

By the way, forget the free Wi Fi or water. It will never come. No one has voted for that.

Kick the Religion

Will a time come when there is no religion in the world? Will a time come when people need only a set of beliefs which they will be free to choose from any existing religion they like? Why not? When we choose where to live, whom to marry and what to eat, why not choose the religion too.

It is not only foreseeable but inevitable too because many of us are actually trapped in our religions, similar to our marriages.

Surprised? Mahatma Gandhi said that a closest analogy for religion is marriage. Once married, we are forced to live in matrimony forever. We perceive our spouse much superior to others and till this superiority exists in our minds, our marriage exists. However, in this apple age, it is no secret that be it love or arranged, majority of marriages become like a marathon race- people find glory in finishing them, throughout the race though, their tongues and throats are bone dry. Society too celebrates when couples complete 50 years of marriage. But this is not about marathon and marriages but about religion.

We do the same with our religions. Just as any word against our beloved is a blasphemy, so is it against our religion. We speak up when a word is said in dishonour of the person we love, we do even more for our religion. The difference is we only protect our beloved – a sane person stops when he is assured that his spouse is safe, but a threat to religion mushrooms into a mass movement. When men and women collect in large groups, sanity is at its lowest, reason is wafer thin and tolerance is non-existent. We do not stop after safeguarding our religion, we strangulate the threat, we kill it, murder it! This is more relatable to Asia where religious fanaticism is at its peak.

But do all followers of a religion believe in what the holy book says? Hardly. Everyone has his own interpretations. But somehow (under social duress) we tend to allow space to people who have on paper devoted their lives to religion – those heads of religious groups. Going against them would make us an outcast. So we sustain in our beliefs, abstain from voicing and maintain the status. Of our viewpoint about our religion. Unlike a marriage, where the spouse can be reformed, a religious reform takes great time. And even greater men.

This is no longer possible. Time to do something. If we can’t kick religion, let’s kick something else –pain.

This companion of religion will lead it away from the planet. After all, when there are no pains, who would need a God? All we will do is to help mankind. No one will talk of idols, sacrifices or prayers.

And maybe when it is millions of light years away, we can view religion better!

Between Good and Bad

Most of us have wondered why we are living. I’ll tweak the question to what are we chasing. Often if we can’t find the answer to a difficult question, we should try to find the answer to a different, easier question.
In most book stores, we see a huge number of self-help books which essentially say we chase success while the business books say we chase money and startups. Some say follow the philanthropic path which some promote self-actualization and happiness. I find that we chase none of these.
I chased success for many years (the search is still on) so much so that in all the music I listened to, I believed the composer is chasing the success. In every painting the theme for me would turn into a search for success. I directed every conversation towards my success. I forgot what I needed – happiness. I was blind and didn’t know how to find it.
After spending some years in wilderness, I wonder do we really chase happiness.
We chase information that bolsters our beliefs. During the course, we stumble over realities that break our dogmas and we lose sight of our goals.
We desperately try to hold on to our beliefs. Now that may sound more relevant to people who have reached a stage where money no longer governs their life, but I think it is valid for all of us. We simply don’t like our beliefs to be shattered, be it the religion, or leadership or passions of our life. When any of these start to show lacunae, we are enraged and begin to crib, both internally and in the outside world. Internal battles remain to us and our family but it is the external battles we try to win, to stay calm. What do we do for it?
I was once a part of a presentation. I hated the person who was presenting. He ran through his slides like a calibrated metronome. His speech, his posture and content, everything aspect was flawless. I hated him even more. I waited for him to fumble somewhere. Anything, a calculation error, a slur or even a lost eye contact. Nothing he missed. However, towards the end, he made a grave error, totally incongruous. I rejoiced. I looked at the audience; some of them smirked to my joy, while others stayed impassive.
Years later, I was performing on piano at a small gathering. I did well all the way until the fine’, where I missed a chord and spilled jarring notes. Did I spoil the whole experience? Yes. Did I do extremely poor. No. For nine-tenths of the performance, I was doing fine, I deserved an applaud. I got a lukewarm one.
I felt as if I were running in the wrong direction all the while.
If we love wrong people or make them our heroes, likelihood is that we might become like them. This is worse but much worse is that we might not be able to break the belief. That is, when we are trying to reform ourselves. If we live in a civilized world, this may hurt us more than others.
The reverse is equally true. And more threatening. If we start hating good people or are not aware of what is good, we can become a danger to the society. We all have baskets of beliefs inside us. Even a child of five! Throughout our lives, we keep storing and processing events in it. We create biases, about people, about religion and every fact that we come across. We desperately search for news or events that bolster those biases. Some biases we start believing so passionately that we start idolizing them. For instance, if I love a sportsman, I can turn all news (good or bad) about him into a positive one. If I hate an actress, no matter what she does, I can find a way to downplay her. Religious zealots can go worse. They get ready to destroy anything that strikes a blow at their centuries held, revered as a God religion. At no time though, we pause to evaluate if we were hating a good or loving an evil.
These biases not only blindfold us but they prevent us from embracing the good, which is nothing but God. We need a constant evaluation of our beliefs- to check whether they really deserve the esteem in which we hold them. Without this, we invite anxiety and misery, we argue, and in an urge to prevail, we lose sight of our goals.
The life has to be spent in learning the difference between the good and the evil. It may not bring any physical gains but then who needs anything more than an unruffled mind?
And happiness.

To be or not to be… A Rebel

Last weekend I had an afternoon chat with my wife, who I must say is a remarkable woman. Though she seemed to be wasting her time on Face book, when she rose from her thoughts and looked at me, she laid out an incisive topic.
You know this pair, this girl is also from my hometown, she said. This girl (let’s call her Miss dreamer), took extensive classes on cooking before marriage, took classes on home making (I made that one) and prepared well for marriage. Looking at her, before marriage, she would have carved out exotic dreams for her husband-about his looks, his style, his voice and maybe secretly about his body too- not too wild an idea recalling her free remarks on Bollywood stars’ bodies. Then why did she settle for this slow moving, laconic, style less common man who probably would not even know where the hell the gym is? And she looks extremely happy, at least her profile shows so, my wife continued. Miss Dreamer had posted photos hugging her lovely kids, insomniac husband and a couple of other disinterested relatives or friends.
She left me in deep thoughts. We can’t judge people by Facebook, can we?
Before I could answer she again surprised me with yet another incisive comment. You recall that Ranbir Kapoor movie, she said, where his friend settles for a man who is similar to this girl’s husband? There are a lot of similarities in these two gentlemen- the man in the movie and this Face book girl Miss Dreamer’s husband.
Yes, there are, I said. In technical sense, they are antithesis of the dream man every girl wants. But then why are girls eager to marry such vroom less men who would never drive his car beyond the speed limit? By now I was recalling such prototypes in my mind and found many. Especially a gentleman I met a few months ago, whose wife was as full of life as he was devoid of it. It was a typical Singaporean NRI conversation – ranging from why-India-can’t-become-Singapore to Condominium prices to why Indians excel abroad and Modi, his toilets… you know it.
The gentleman, let’s call him Mr. No problem, stayed quiet (didn’t you guess), stayed motionless (yawn), nodded rhythmically, politely reprimanded the baby and solved the still-dressed-as-twenty-something wife’s problems while speaking in a hush tone. So many qualities! My God! I thought and cursed myself.
So now you see, in the movie, the man was shown to be highly useful to any girl. In case you have not noticed, we were talking about Yeh Jawani hai Diwaani. In the movie, actor Kalki’s prospective husband pays the hotel bill of her ex-boyfriend. Needless to say, he would love her unconditionally, her style, her mannerisms, her perfume and her dresses. As a woman, his wife would seek opinions but such a man would always choose not to go against her choice. He would give her credit cards, service her car but would never question the statements and rides. He would give her all that would make her feel secure, safe and settled. When she would read Chetan Bhagat, he would not ask her to read Salman Rushdie.
Our man, Mr. No Problem, at work, obeys every rule of his boss, is never late for a meeting though invariably stays late for work-to keep the bosses happy and rise in career to the delight of wife. If such a man is available (trust me there are), which girl would dream of an eccentric, unpredictable and demanding jerk even if he has the most innovative brain cells, a creative mind and mutton shop body? And why would a manager chose a daydreaming genius over our Mr. No problem?
I heard my wife and realized what she was saying. Not only the girls, but the whole world loves such steady, smug, easygoing kind of men. Such men run systems well- in corporate and in life. They are qualified, what if unadventurous, they are team man what if obscured, and they are stable what if a little boring.

Yeah, I said, every girl wants such men even if our movies have glorified the mavericks over decades. The word I was hiding so far was- the rebel. No one likes a rebel. Such a son, husband or boyfriend is a nothing but a headache to people around him even if he’s miles ahead in acumen and enactment. I reminded her of a South African born English cricketer who was recently dumped for his non-conformance.
I wanted to ask my wife whether she ever wished for a Mr. No Problem but held back the question.
I once told a high ranked manager, to the horror of my boss, to end the meeting when it had overran by two hours. He stared at me, hurled a corporate expletive and entrusted my boss to reform me. Another time I pointed to my teacher that her method was too long and torturous. Without wasting time, she sent me outside. Many such foolish and irrational behaviors have punctuated my life. Totally avoidable, yet in all those moments, I felt a deep urge to act- don’t know why. Now years later I know- I am a rebel too.
Indian woman don’t like rebels, we concluded.
My wife loves me.

The Curse of the IITs?

Being engineers, my wife and I frequently have many after dinner discussions on colleges, engineering and in general, on working for giant companies. Last night we discussed about the curse of the IITs. Yes you heard it right the curse of IITs!

My wife has a distant cousin, let’s name her Shweta. My wife and Shweta lived in the same city. Both were academically good and usually topped their class sections. Whereas my wife loved chemistry, Shweta was a rare female lover of Physics and Math. She loved calculus and often helped my wife in grasping concepts. After plus two, both decide to go for engineering entrance tests as we all did fifteen years ago. My wife, however for some strange reason decided not to appear in the IITs. Her reason as I have guessed in over years was to not to leave her mother (Apparently there was no IIT in her city and she was confident of clearing the entrance). She maintains to this day however, that she would not have cleared it anyway. (I tried once, but luckily failed to clear!)

When the IIT results was out, it was the day of horror for my wife. Shweta had scrapped into the IITs by the last of the doors. She was assured of a seat in one of the then six IIT colleges. My wife tells me she cried for the whole week, as women do. Ahem!

Shweta joined an IIT college and got a very out-of-demand course but nevertheless was assured of good placement and if nothing, a good future husband. My wife chose chemical engineering in the regional engineering college available in her city. She continued to top her engineering class for the four years, through campus recruitment, she got a job in now defunct (in India) but then a giant car manufacturing company. She later joined Indian Oil Corporation and met me and married me. Some luck for her!
Shweta, a topper so far in her life, struggled to stay in the hunt for any rank in the engineering class. In the first year, she thought of quitting and preparing again, but she carried on. When she looked around, she found everyone having similar level of intelligence, academic prudence and acute mind. Her confidence, which propelled her all these years, was now porous and she had to resort to a hard grind.
Four years later, she graduated and joined a large public sector company through campus recruitment but stayed on the fringes since her area of study was never the core subject of the company. She was a civil engineer while the company produced chemicals.
Shweta fell in love with a co worker and somehow pulled on for four years, reaching a point when she decided to quit. She then spent a fortune and went to London to pursue a management course. Two and half years later, she joined a reputed company in Gurgaon as a human resource vice president. She uses neither calculus nor any laws of motion in her work.
Two years ago, she gave birth to her son. My daughter is ten.
All of the students in Shweta’s engineering class got jobs at the campus interviews while in my wife’s college, only the top 20 were lucky. First, Shweta entered (one of the) best college as the last entrant and then she joined a big company as the least preferred candidate. How in the world she was to have an air of acceptability around her?
My wife, however, chose a college which had students from the same region and of relatively similar intelligence, a college where she could not only compete with but eventually race past other students. She got her first job in a company where she was the chosen, preferred candidate.
Two girls at the same level ended up being so different. My wife and I concluded that it was the curse of the IITs or should we say a big college, a big company or a big country!
I know in the posterity, stories are easier to read. We all fall in the trap of meeting the criteria. Is that enough? I recall from my college days how an interview call from IIMs to someone would trigger jubilations (and tremors of frustrations too). I dread today when I imagine myself sitting in a class of management aspirants. Even if I have management aptitude, the thought of being nobody in the town shivers me. The thought of coming last is what I want to avoid.

Sports, Luck and Dhoni

What is difference between a T20, a fifty overs match and a Test match? Is there a hidden dissimilarity? The game essentially remains the same, the ball, the bat, the pitch, stump height, the rules (more or less) and the players (not always). Then why is it that some teams can consistently play well and win in one format but look pedestrian in another?

More interesting questions: Why do teams manage over 200 runs in a T20 while in fifty over game they struggle to reach 300? And why 400 runs in fourth innings (even on a good pitch) in nearly unlimited overs (100 to 120) are nigh impossible? How come Dale Steyn is carted for over 20 runs in an over by average players but in test matches, they can’t lay bat to his deliveries?

Let’s begin with a ride. Why do we love to play Candy Crush? I am sure you have played it or its avatars.  It looks so silly at times to slide fingers over a smart phone, but let’s face it, everyone does it. Why? The answer I presume is not that we love sweets or chocolates (though it is a nudging factor) but is the nature of the game. It involves lots of luck and only a little bit of smartness. If you lose, you say it was luck, if you win, you can silently pat your ego for being smart. In a way it is a win-win situation bringing you fun overall.  Will we play chess like this? I can’t imagine, because chess is essentially a game that diminishes the luck aspect totally. In chess, no one can ever benefit from random distribution, a lucky move (as in board games) or from a benevolent bounce of the delivery (cricket, tennis and others). If you win, it entirely proves that you are smarter than the opponent. Even in card games, when the experience of the players starts to converge, it is the lucky one who is dealt all the aces, wins. Sometimes even a novice beat a seasoned player (kids love beating the fathers in card games). But in chess, a novice never wins. If players are equal in ability, the one who is more alert on the day, may win but still, he can’t be called lucky. Chess

Unlike most sports, chess begins on the same board with same pieces arranged in the same spots. There is no toss, wind, sunlight, a line call or injured players to induce luck. Some other games are similar like checkers, but chess’s possibilities make it vastly superior. In spite of an absolute lack of unpredictability, it is hugely popular as well.

So we have two extremes for sports, one is coin toss and the other an intense physical and mental battle. Both can be unspectacular unless some fun is injected by rule bending. If I can represent graphically, it would look like this.Sports

The popular games will always be slightly high on luck factor because watching unpredictability is easier than facing. Uncertainty also keeps the underdogs interested and hopeful of toppling a giant team or a player. Sports which have no element of luck like Badminton struggle to penetrate for viewership. This is of course not to say that only sports with luck are popular. Olympic track and field events are hugely popular but they owe viewership to sense of event. Imagine watching 100 m or a wrestling match or a shot put event every month!

Soccer too has an element of luck which introduces unpredictability and hence reduces the dominance of perennial favourites. True, some teams dominate but others are never out of contention. Where else do we see a rank outsider Senegal beating France or Cameroon stunning Argentina?

original_bee-ball-optimum-basketball-nettennis-ball-on-line

Why Tennis and Test cricket are high on intensity while low on luck? Primarily because a lucky line call or a streaky boundary might give you a point or a run, they can’t win you the match. In limited overs match though, a couple of lucky hits, wickets or even dot balls can make the difference.  And remember, there are no second chances in limited over cricket.

This is not to say that players who excel in shorter format don’t have these attributes, but test cricket does require a lot of patience, perseverance and grit. To turn a test match is no joke; it needs a sustained high quality performance to tilt it, even more to turn it in your favour.

The length of a test match is much like life. It helps to avoid luck dominating the game. It helps to avoid the impact of streaky patches of chance and bolsters it with the requirement of fortitude. If it were not there, we would see a lot of inferior teams winning test matches and no one likes that. In life too, an odd bump doesn’t bother us if we know the path is the correct one. A man lacking depth will eventually be caught short in the long run. It is the depth.

 

In IPL, every year all the teams have chances of qualifying till the end. Usually they are separated by a run or a decimal. This is pure randomness. Who are the players who excel in this? Those who are not only brilliant players of shorter version but are masters of cashing on randomness. MS Dhoni is such a master. Using his influence as captain, he loves bringing every game to a state where a stroke or a wicket can decide the game.  If a chase comes to a point where 120 runs are needed in 20 overs, instead of batting with sustained aggression, he would stretch it to make a game of chance. He would bring the equation to say, 75 in 10 and then 40 in 4 overs. At this state, the opposing captain will not have a choice but to gamble. He would forget ideas of field setting or wicket taking and would indulge in pure run stopping tactics. Before I proceed, let me clarify, there is nothing unethical in Dhoni’s methods. Many other teams have tried these as I would talk later.

Dhoni works hard to find himself in a 10 balls-22 runs situation. He loves it. This introduces randomness in the game. An edge can fly over third man, a catch might be dropped or the bowler may drift to leg side under pressure. All such things help the batting side. Moreover Dhoni, invariably the senior batsman in such a state, hits the ball out of the ground with his muscular swing and wins it. Dhoni becomes a hero while the audience and fans are left to bite the nails.

Australia is the team which has most narrow wins and losses. Curious? Especially when since 1987, they have been the most dominating team. An answer lies in these tactics. If they would lose wickets while chasing, they would let the match dawdle, aiming to bring down the equation to less than 25 runs in the last over. This would get them back in the game. Not only 15-25 runs can be scored by a few hits, under pressure mis-fields, overthrows too increase and help you. This is why Australia always lost by narrower margin. Many a times players like Michael Bevan scored boundaries of the last or penultimate deliveries to win the games. I recall once Brett Lee scored 11 off three balls in a Sydney ODI to win it for Australia. Now that takes a lot of courage too and indeed is a great attribute to have. But this doesn’t work in test matches.

A test match cannot be brought to a lottery state where it can be decided by a swing or two. A few fortunate happenings will even out in the day itself. This is where a quality player excels. He needs to bat or bowl session after session with the same intensity, aggression and most importantly, with the same calibre. This is indeed very tough. VVS Laxman did this for five sessions against the world’s best in Kolkata 2001! His effort produced possibly the greatest cricketing contest.

Five deliveries compared to five sessions. Which one do you prefer?

Batting in cricket depends a lot on horizon. Arguably, every delivery can be hit out of the park- even the ones delivered from stratosphere by Ambrose and Garner. But all deliveries cannot dismiss the batsman. In reality, the best deliveries are the ones that the batsmen manage to escape. Batting depends on the match state and batsman’s mind-set. So, if the horizon is an over, it is not at all a heroic act to hit sixes against Dale Steyn, even two or three in the over. In fact, it is more like a gamble that paid off. It does need however, a basic capability of hand eye coordination and a good swing. Further, in T20 situations, if a batsman fails, he has nothing to lose, especially if he has scored well in his previous innings. So with that knowledge, he can always swing with abandon. If the same state becomes surviving a whole day against Dale Steyn bowling at his will, scoring even a hundred runs becomes a challenge for most batsmen.

The more you shorten the game, the more it hinges on a few events- most of them can be pure luck. Try playing a one over game. The outcome of a match between international teams would not be far away from the randomness of a coin flip.