Feb 29, 2012

The Next Great Indian Batsman?

As a cricket lover who grew up watching the exploits of the 'Holy Trinity', the idea of 'life' after them was very discouraging. I had torrid time coping with the reality that Sourav Ganguly will no more play for India. Thankfully, that machine called Sachin still runs on and Dravid also has some cricket left in him. In between, there were plenty of brilliant displays by Laxman and Sehwag in test cricket, but nothing matched that sheer charisma and divine nature of play that Sachin, Dravid and Ganguly displayed. As the curtain slowly draws on the careers of remaining two of the trinity, one question props up in the mind- Who will be the next big batting star from India?

We have a tradition (and reputation) of producing world-class batsmen over the years. From Gavaskar to Tendulkar, Indian batsmen have been merchants of unmatched craft and acumen. So, who will carry the baton forward? In this age of IPL, do we have the talent that can match the exploits of these greats?

While discussing about the next great Indian batsman, few names automatically come to the mind. Virender Sehwag has a terrific test record and highest ODI score ever to his credit, but he is way too wayward and careless to be crowned a 'great' of the game. Moreover, his ODI record is very mediocre and he also lacks consistency and right temperament.

Second name that comes to the mind is that of Southpaw Yuvraj Singh, who is currently recovering from illness. In the past few years, he has emerged as a great One-day cricketer, winning the coveted Man of the Tournament title at the last year's world cup. But his Test performances have been way below par and with age no more very much on his side, he seems to be more of a 'one-day' wonder. Third name on the list is that of Gautam Gambhir, who has emerged as India's opening mainstay in both Tests and ODIs. But Gambhir lacks the flair, elegance and charm of a great batsman. Yes, he has a very consistent record in all the formats of the games, but something stops him from making that transition from a 'very good' batsman to a great batsman.

It is in this regard that a certain Virat Kohli catches my imagination. And, I am not saying this only on the merit of his herculean effort at Hobart. Virat's silken stroke play reminds me of young Sachin, his grit and resolve matches Dravid's steely nerves and his temperament and attitude resembles that of Sourav Ganguly. Yes, 3 in 1 may sound pretty cheesy and romantic, but those who have followed Virat's rise over the last couple of years, would know what I am talking about!

 Virat has everything that it takes to be a great batsman. He has already emerged as one of the India's best finishers in ODIs, averaging more than 55 while batting second. Also, it's not a mere co-incidence that he happens to be the only Indian who has scored a century, in both Tests and ODI tri-series, on the current Australian tour. He always looks hungry to succeed, there is a streak of fire in his eyes. More importantly, he is also a quick learner and represents the new breed of Indian cricketers who never say never. All of this indicates that he could well be India's future captain too.

But, the stamp of greatness on Virat Kohli will acquire its true color when he matches his immense talent with more incredible and consistent performances. He will have to cement his place in the Test team and may be take up the respectable no. 3 slot. Time will judge Kohli on the basis of how many matches he wins for India and how convincingly does he win over himself. Being young is both a privilege and a liability in sports. India has seen too many young stars who flatter to deceive and fail to cope with their new found stardom. Kohli is sending all the right vibes, and no wonder this cricket-crazy nation is seeing a hero in him.

So, if the script unfolds as per the promise of the synopsis, we just may have found the The Next Great Indian Batsman.

Feb 22, 2012

3 Idiots/ Waiting for Godot

Virender Sehwag is the most irritating player to have ever graced the game of cricket. Yes, he has achieved great personal milestones and made a huge impact on the fortunes of his team, but his self-indulgence and gloated personality makes me virtually hate him. His carefree attitude, both in life and cricket, borders on carelessness. This is not all, he takes pride in being careless and reckless, as if his stupid so-called candid statements make him a dream man for Indian females. He does not know the meaning of word humble, does not know how to handle the media or does not know how to speak at first place. At yesterday’s press conference after India’s crushing defeat at the hands of Lankans, Sehwag was his usual stupid self, throwing himself deeper and deeper into the web of questions weaved by the media.

He did not show an iota of remorse or shame at his terrible batting form and his team’s pathetic all-around display. Instead, he used the occasion to bare open his seemingly irreconcilable differences with Captain MS Dhoni. By the end of the conference, it was clear that his ego has been hurt after Dhoni blew the lid off the infamous rotation policy. Sehwag must realize that he is no holy cow, he is no Sachin Tendulkar. He has been dumped from the side in the past and there is no reason why he can not be shown the doors yet again. His batting is poor and detrimental to team’s interests, his attitude is arrogant and un-sportsman like.

This brings me to Captain Cool turned Captain Fool MS Dhoni. He has clearly lost the plot. Sad and surprising, for a man who seemed so much in command not so long ago. With 2 World Cups and No. 1 Test Ranking under his belt, MS looked invincible as a captain, to say the least. Everything he touched turned into gold, every move he made turned out to be a decisive step. Lady luck was his muse and the country could not believe how a man can be so composed even after having virtually the entire world at his disposal.

But 8 overseas defeats in a row and there are chinks in the armor for everyone to see. MS has become more and more imprudent in media management, his on-field captaincy has taken a tragic turn and his very place in the test side looks pretty much in danger. He is no more a captain who backs his players. Some of his decisions off late, smack of partisanship and favoritism. His cricketing decisions are backfiring like never before, the infamous rotation policy being the latest example. More ominously, Dhoni is losing the dignity and respect captain commands within his team. The seniors are unhappy, and he himself is doing nothing to reach out to them. His ‘confessions’ in the media, be it about the top 3 being slow fielders or his retirement plans in 2013, appear to be amateurish rather than candid.

And there is this 3rd dimension to the Team India’s woeful media management Down Under. Gautam Gambhir seriously needs a few lessons in yoga and meditation. He always looks so combative and serious. I remember seeing his marriage photographs. Poor Mrs. Gambhir! That ultra serious attitude shows in the kind of statements he makes in the media. Caution and restrain is something that he should learn or else forget about taking up the top job once the Dhoni era is gone.

And heroics of the 3 Idiots aside, there is a raging debate over whether Sachin Tendulkar should be dropped from ODI squad or the little master himself should hang his boots. It’s amazing how fortune changes. And even more amazing the kind of fickle memory we, the cricket lovers have. Though I believe that April 2, 2011 was the perfect date for Sachin to retire from One-day cricket, I am against even the faintest of cry for the great man’s ouster from the side. But again, I also believe that Sachin must not be allowed to pick and choose matches he wants to play. Clearly, playing ODIs after almost a year is not helping his cause in Australia. Sachin’s random choices are also not helping the cause of youngsters who strive hard to make their way in the team.

Sachin Tendulkar has literally achieved everything in shorter format of the game. It’s time he should take a call on his future in One-day cricket. This will help him unwind and concentrate. And who knows that elusive 100th ton may come just after that clutter is removed from his mind. Sachin’s wait for his personal milestone is turning out to be utterly tragic and anti-climatic. Many have started to wonder whether the wait for Sachin's 100th 100 will end up like the one for Godot!

It will be a dream headline – “Sachin Emulates Don, Retires at 99”

Feb 20, 2012

What happens when you vote wisely?

A Wind of Change is blowing. The results can now be seen on the ground.


As a small kid, I used to ask my mother, ' Why do we sleep so early?' ‘It’s just 8'. She used to tell me that good people sleep early and wake up early. She herself slept an hour later to me and woke up, (ok, believe it or not) at 3 in the morning.

 Now, I look back and realize, there was nothing to keep us awake beyond 8. All the shops, markets started winding up by 6 in the evening and by 8 my town was patrolled by street dogs. The only sources of entertainment were DD National and Vividh Bharti. On fridays, I and my sisters used to plead mom & dad to let us watch the feature film on DD (The movie started at 9.30 in night). Obviously, it was the boldest and bravest adventure, we could afford to imagine.

Importantly, Electricity for us was like an ice cream. It used to melt away before we could savour it. Erratic power supply was sometimes followed by absolute power cut for days, even months. People said the Lalu Govt. was specifically targeting my town as it was 'Upper Caste' (Bhumihaars and Rajputs) dominated.


On one of my trips to home, I met an elderly man whom my father admired a lot. Elderly people in my state have this tendency to quiz you, especially if you have a 'Delhi-returned' tag.

'Kya naam hai'? He asked me (In a typical Bhojpuri accent). ‘Ashish’, I replied. He was not amused. "Pura naam boliye". ‘Ashish Anant’, I tried my luck again. He was now satisfied and passed a smile. "Pitaji ka kya naam hai?” He very well knew my father, yet he wanted to hear his name from me. He was actually seeing whether I add "Shri" before papa's name or not, and whether I speak out his full name (My father has a long name) along with the surname. I passed the litmus test and the elderly man patted my back.

He continued, "Aap Dilli mein padhai Kar rahe hain." I nodded. "Baaki, yahaan bhi mahaul ab achcha hai. Dilli wali baat nahi hai, par Bihar badal gaya hai. uuu Dekhiye, pole par bijli hai, 20 ghanta rehti hai." I looked up at the pole. A bulb was glowing so magnificently that its luminance could be noticed even in the broad daylight. After exchanging pleasantries with the man, I continued towards my home.

That bright shining bulb is still fresh in my mind.


I do not know how one can measure happiness; I am not an economist or a sociologist for that matter. But during my trips to Bihar during the year 2010-11, I could feel a wave of happiness in the air. Driving towards my hometown, the RJ on Radio Mirchi Patna kept me informed about what all good things are happening in Bihar and how Patna has now properly transformed itself into a ‘city’. The first multiplex was already functioning, a mall was on its way, global leaders of taste like McDonald’s, KFC and Yo!China had opened their outlets and so on. In between, Mirchi played social service ads by Bihar Government. Clearly, something unusually ‘feel good’ was happening in my home state. I listened to all this while the driver ballooned the vehicle in and out of a web of flyovers.

I do not say that Radio Mirchi, KFC and flyovers are indicators of development. But yes, they are the agents of change. Agents of change for a state that sunk in abyss of misrule and anarchy for 15 long years. My female friends in Patna tell me that they are no more scared to go out on the streets after its dark. The bank of Ganges is now again buzzing with ferries and people who are on picnic. People are now less concerned about someone’s caste and surname. Education has become a priority and possibility even for the poorest of poor. And most importantly, there is no more a stigma attached to the term ‘Bihari’. My friends in Delhi do not tease me anymore for belonging to ‘Laluland’. Being a Bihari, now, gives me a sense of immense pride and satisfaction.

All of this has been possible as people of Bihar chose and persisted with a man who promised and delivered development. My state is a shining example of how vote can demolish or develop a state. Elections, after all, are not just about rallies and shouting slogans. There is a lot at stake.

 P.S.- The writer is a proud Bihari and has witnessed his state's meteoric rise in the recent years.

Feb 3, 2012

The Number You've Dialled Is Currently Switched Off!

Every morning the Times of India tells me something interesting about this wonderful world. (Screw Hindu!) Agreed that on most occasions, the TOI front page is preceded by a full-page advertisement of a product/service. But somehow, I find even these ads interesting. For example, today's newspaper carries a huge Vodafone ad that tells us why should we continue using or switch to the Pug telecom service provider. And if you have been following news keenly since yesterday, you would know why am I so upbeat about this ad. To me, this Vodafone advertisement conveyed the nuances of SC's landmark judgement on 2G spectrum allocations much more lucidly than the expansive coverage in rest of the newspaper!.

So, the Supreme Court has yet again come to India's rescue. It has made it categorically clear that loot wont be the rule but an aberration. And, that even a private citizen, with a well-researched and meticulously formulated PIL, can send ripples across the echelons of power in New Delhi. And most important of all, 'first cum first serve' is not a great 'Idea'. IPL auctioning brains can be proud of themselves!

In the next 4 months, 121 telecom licenses will stand cancelled. I am wondering if any of my friends is in 'loop' of the likes of Uninor, Videocon and even Idea! No doubt, millions of consumers across different cities will be affected by this verdict. Thank God! Mobile portability is very much alive and kicking!

Obviously, the likes of Airtel and Vodafone are grinning ear to ear. Lesser competition in the market may lead to higher tarrifs. Let's not forget that tarrifs went up by at least 37% last year just because some of the beneficiaries of the Raja's telecom 'tamasha' could not roll out their services. So, that cellphone in your pocket may not easily rest in the times to come. We, the celebrated middle class, can of course cry hoarse yet afford swing of any kind in the telecom sector, but what about those maids, workers and not so privileged who proudly welcomed cellphones as new members of their family.

SC's verdict is an indictment of the government, the telecom ministry and TRAI. It will ensure that policy formulation in this country is now more transparent and well laid out. But, the consumer may have to suffer a bit. The verdict is a victory for the common man in the sense that he can always expect justice and relief from the highest judicial body. The rich and powerful may plunder our wealth but they will have to give answers sooner or later. And I am sure, this big gain from the verdict clearly outweighs the little troubles that we might have to face as telecom subscribers.

And lastly, it is so pacifying to see that one of the biggest blows to corruption has come from within the 'system'. There is still a lot of goodness in the people of this country. And till this goodness and hope thrives, our phones will continue to ring. (wink)

Feb 2, 2012

UP Polls 2012: Return of Sadhvi

She had all the ingredients to be the ‘next big thing’ of the BJP, yet she never really found her place in the party’s ‘Gen-Next’ brigade. Gifted with excellent oratory skills and an ability to judge the ‘pulse’ of the masses, Uma Bharti is the saffron party’s quintessential ‘infant terrible’. Her relation with the BJP is as melodramatic and full of twists as a Bollywood potboiler. However, the maverick sadhvi is back in the thick of things as the BJP’s saviour-in-chief for Mission UP 2012.

Uma’s biggest challenge in UP is to revive the BJP by consolidating its core vote-bank as well as try and break new grounds among the electorates. She brings with herself the much-needed energy and urgency in the election campaign for the BJP. In fact, all the headlines that the BJP has grabbed from Uttar Pradesh can be mainly attributed to Uma Bharti. Otherwise, UP elections would have been all about Mayawati versus Rahul Gandhi with a pinch of Mulayam Singh thrown in between.

BJP finds itself in a great fix in the politically crucial state of UP with its electoral fortunes declining steadily. There is a dearth of credible leadership in the state and it is in this regard that Uma Bharti comes across as a very pleasant option for the party. She is a proven crowd puller and her appeal amongst the backward class may just revive BJP in the state. Also, Uma’s projection as BJP’s in-charge in UP can galvanize some of the Hindu votes. The party has already made its intentions clear by promising cow to the poor and including Ram Temple issue in the manifesto. Also, there is a lot of slugfest over the issue of minority quota with Uma terming it as ‘an attempt that could lead to second partition of the country’.

With Mayawati still pretty much in command of her ‘socially engineered’ electoral base, Rahul Gandhi going full throttle in his attempt to revive Congress and Samajwadi Party leaving no stone unturned in wooing minority votes, BJP faces the possible embarrassment of finishing fourth in the elections. Uma Bharti not only needs to resurrect her party’s plunging fortunes but also urgently requires to send out a strong message to ‘critics’ who wrote her political obituary. Her detractors accuse her of being an ‘outsider’, someone who has come to UP only to perform an ‘assigned’ task. Also, the fact that she is not even the chief ministerial candidate of her party makes her job tougher. Uma needs to convince the common voter of UP that she is not just another ‘star campaigner’ who hops around in helicopter. She needs to build some confidence in the hearts of the people of Uttar Pradesh. And she also must realize that things have changed drastically since she hogged limelight in UP for her call to build the Ram Temple at Ayodhya.

Whether she succeeds in salvaging BJP’s pride in UP or not remains to be seen. Frankly, no one expects a miracle of sorts from the Sadhvi but yes, she is at least expected to put up a good fight. She has definitely come across as a breath of fresh air for the almost dead and buried BJP in Uttar Pradesh. The party, which had almost nothing new or exciting to offer and promise, now at least has a known and proven mass leader to spearhead its campaign.

Note- First of a series of articles on State Assembly Elections 2012.