Saturday, February 22, 2014

MSD and Indian Cricket Team-We need to be more sensible

The clamor, that is doing the rounds from respected cricketers of yesteryears, coaches and other stakeholders of the game to look beyond MSD as India’s test captain, looks to me utterly preposterous and immature. One otherwise respected captain has gone to the extent of calling MSD’s captaincy “obnoxious”- I only hope the gentleman does not end up eating his own words in few months’ time.

If one just goes by the record books of last 12 odd tests without bothering to delve into the context of the transition this predominately young Indian team (incidentally MSD is the oldest of the lot at 31 years) is going through, a grave mistake and injustice are being done. When senior members were dragging their feet far too long, we, the people wanted the places to be vacated for the young colts and when that ultimately happened, we told ourselves to give them  "time" and be patient while they group as a team. Now, in the face of few defeats, we have blissfully forgotten our promise made to them and taken resort to what we do best – the cribbing to ask for heads. While there is a cricket expert  in each of us calling the shots from the cozy corners of our own sweet homes as arm chair strategist, with due respect to all these guys, I am sorry to say that we are not being responsible enough.

I fail to understand how we are missing the point that the performance in South Africa and NewZeland were much better in comparison to what we saw in England followed by in Australia. There are clear signs of team improving in each of these outings in both the departments – batting and bowling while fielding calls for much introspection. Dhoni, not long ago hailed as an imaginative captain, has tried to draw our attention to this very fact which can’t and should not be really ignored. The following article is not out of place in this discussion.
Coming to the point of captaincy, it is agreed and often said that a captain is as good as the team and a captain can make the team better. But with limited options that MSD had in all three departments when things were not falling in place and good performances - few and far between were occurring only in patches- what else he could have done. I am sure it is the results that are creating all this fury. If the results would have been in India’s favor, all the current discussion points finding lacuna of captaincy would have gone out of the window.
It is easy to pass judgments in hindsight. Lots of things can be analyzed for appropriate decision making in reflection but that does not help the captains on the field. While it is pointed out that MSD has taken defensive positions to save runs rather than chasing 20 wickets – I personally don’t agree that all the ex-players in his position would have done something different in each of those situations. Every captain adopts both - aggressive and defensive approach suiting to the context of the game based on the best possible analysis at that time in consultation with team management and that is just normal to me. None goes with only one approach in the course of a series of games and I don’t expect it that way from anyone at this level of international cricket. In this regard, terming MSD only as a defensive captain is not acceptable just noting some instances of field placements or delaying the new ball. We should respect any such decisions taken as a part and parcel of collective strategy and tactic to the game at hand and just leave it there.

In this context, the comments from respected Sunny Gavaskar in the below article is noteworthy which, to me, is a balanced and matured view.
While changing the captains as knee jerk solution did not work for any countries, two captain theories also did not prove to be any panacea. To me, the games as a whole – how much we try to bring scientific approach to it ,are far away from engineering and holds good amount of uncertainty entangled into them and there lies the beauty. I would like to opine that this team, as a faction less unit is growing well under the leadership of MSD and we should not be too worried just in the face of 10 defeats over a period of 2 odd years. Though we never expected that from day one, this new team will bring laurels to India, they have achieved that in winning champions’ trophy and other one day series in outside of India conditions while the record in the subcontinent is impeccable.
Allow me to raise the point that home teams are playing to their strengths in their local grounds and results are being diagrammatically opposite for the same team in home and away situation. Is this a real test of capability ? Or does the answer lie in a neutral venue concept? While I understand commercial aspects will be at stake in such situations, I do believe that results from neutral venue are the only and real measurement of strength while a pinch of salt needs to be added for the results in favor of local teams in home conditions.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Tryst with Fate

Submitted as a 400 word entry @

20th September 1997-it was my best friend Purnendu’s 28th birthday.
When we joined college, we connected instinctively and the bond lasted through thick and thin. It got rejuvenated when I got an opportunity to work at Jamshedpur- a well-manicured steel township in Bihar. Purnendu was already working there and incidentally so was my fiancé. My emotions ran manifold the day I saw them waiting at the railway station to receive me. We thanked fate for bringing us together after a lengthy sojourn, when we had to settle at different corners of India.

We used to meet frequently - Purnendu driving his scooter for quite a distance ignoring adverse weather conditions --- rain or storm. The visits to the beautiful Jubilee park, the pristine Dimna lake, picturesque Ghatshila with all its greenery, long drives through by lanes of Sonari or Adarsh Nagar, eating at Anand @ Bistupur – life presented itself with a bouquet of happiness.

He was not careful towards life and like others in India, was not particular about wearing helmet while driving. Umpteen cautions from both of us could not change much.

That day, he invited both of us to have dinner at an eatery in downtown area and we were on time, carrying a pricey helmet, that he had once wished for, as birthday gift. He seemed to like the style a lot and we could extract the promise that from then on he would never ride his 2 wheeler without it. We finished dinner and parted ways; the clock on the clock tower chimed 1 AM when I eventually surrendered to sleep. Having gifted the helmet to my friend which would protect him from mortal danger, I slept contended.

Next morning, I woke up to the rudest shock of my life. Purnendu’s father was on the other side of the phone with terrible news and I could hardly believe my ears. Thinking all is not lost yet, I set out towards the hospital at double speed.

It so happened that a bus, driven by the helper in place of usual driver rammed into his bike at a traffic signal causing him to fall. The casual driver panicked and instead of slamming the brakes, pressed the accelerator crushing Purnendu’s head. Ironically, the new helmet was lying strapped to his rear seat.

Purnendu lived life with fate on his sleeves and it was not on his side this time.  

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

My Childhood Crush

It was the early eighties and I was in my pre-teens - around 11-12 years old, studying in the fourth standard. I was born and brought up in the small town of Suri, district town of Birbhum – around 200 kms north of Kolkata. The business of circus was at its peak during those days and it was almost a regular phenomenon that 2-3 circus troupes used to visit the less urbane small towns across West Bengal in a year- one during school summer vacation, and the others during Durga Puja Holidays or winter vacation. Another major source of attraction was magic shows- almost all, by some or other Sarkar leveraging the lineage of the venerable P.C. Sorkar (Sr).

A few days before the schools declared the holidays, the posters, announcing the arrival of one or the other circus party would paint the town in black and yellow. Fortunately the biggest ground that used to host all kinds of shows was within one kilometer from where we used to live in Rabindra Pally and I used to be all ears when the mike announcements would go talking about it.

Looking back those days, I had a special affinity and attraction for the circus. While I can’t explain what all it was about, I used to be there - just standing and holding on to the iron railings on a daily basis after my study hours got over. It used to pull me like opposite poles of magnets would attract or like a bee to the honey, while my contemporaries would spend the hours on a football or cricket game. The mental and motional connect was inseparable with no proper reason that can describe it. After 30 years, today, guess that was my first encounter with infatuation to something rather than someone.
There used to be a small gate with a security guard manning it- shouting at people around the gate from time to time clearing out the crowd around. Over a period of time, being a regular visitor - I could command a different kind of treatment from him. Though there was never any intention of watching the show for free, leveraging the relationship, I used to enjoy the small tit bits of conversation, about where they came from and where they would go next. I have tried to think hard if the bonding  was for anything in particular – being in the tender age of adolescence going through puberty, was it for the performers – the female ones in dazzling dresses performing near-impossible acts to the tune of the band. Or was it for the animals  under the big canopy?                                       

While the attraction was not for anything in particular (admiration was for the flawless execution of difficult routines) - I guess the connection was with their bohemian lifestyle, moving from place to place. In my visualization of things, circus gives one a platform to  see various places, meet different people and get lauded by so many people around - all those used to give me the kick. It did figure out in my list of ambitions to join them as well and in one summer, used to dwell on thoughts of leaving home to be part of the bigger family . During those days, as financial parameters were not prime concern in my life, the compulsion of the performing artists having to adapt to this lifestyle against small payouts and supporting their families  - all these complexities were beyond me. The awe about the whole thing kept me mesmerized and engulfed - quite inexplicable to others.

I used to like to spend my “me” time alone with the circus arena with some kind of jealousy and possessiveness. As and when people would start flocking in during the show times, I used to get disenchanted and would return home.

While I know very well that our Indian circus shows might be inferior to their foreign cousins but my feeling about circus was so deep that I feel grateful to Raj Kapoor having made circus immortal through his emotional depiction in movie “Mera Nam Joker”. Still today, any scene from that movie brings back all the memories of those days besides the surge of emotion the movie itself puts ones through. Though the attractions from public at large might have reduced over a period of time pushing this industry on the verge of being extinct - with the animals being moved out  and availability of other much more exciting sources of entertainment available through TV in the cozy environment of drawing rooms, I personally don’t miss any opportunity to visit them in case one is going on nearby. This is my rechristening the bond grafted decades back – still fondly cherished in one corner of my heart. Going with the same emotional connect, I took my daughter to the very first opportunity to a circus show when she was just 4 years old.  No, it was and is not "Like father, like daughter".                                   

In the midst of all these, two incidents are still vivid in my memory. One of the giant elephants - while returning to the camp after a field day on the outskirts got into a puzzled and somewhat annoyed state beyond the control of the mahout – creating quite a trouble for the locality and attacking people though there was no casualty. The second incident happened during the animal show after the erection of the high steel circular wall in the middle of the arena. That day, we were seated in the invited guest seating area as my father could manage few passes. We were at the front row very close to the central arena shaking hands with the clowns and being part of their acts all through the duration of the show. One of the tigers- quite unmanageable to the trainer- while asked to sit on a high stool jumped out of the steel wall after scaling the perimeter. He fell just in front of a small girl and it was a pandemonium and panic situation all over which might have taken a turn for worse but for the presence of mind of the trainer who pulled the chain in time to dislodge the animal on its feet. In both the cases, I had a sense of personal failures that people would point finger to various aspects including safety and security of the shows.

Inside the tent, the artists on the trapeze, the husband-wife couple in the weightlifting section, the cycle show with girls and ladies of different ages, other different balancing acts, the show with the birds, the multi-daggers/knife acts with the man saving him at the nick of the time – all used to keep me glued after repeated watch - on the outside, it was a different connection that used to bind me with the event. I still remember Ramu – one of the security guards waving his hand while the big truck disappeared in the distance on the last day that summer. The field was deserted and forlorn waiting to welcome another guest some other day, some other time.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Republic Day Celebration – another Festival in the making

Our beloved country recently observed 65th Republic day recently. What does it really mean to us?

Children at the government school
I asked this question to 4 people today.
The 5th grader from a private school, the new age citizen hardly having about inkling about India under British subjugation, shrugged his shoulders with a puzzled look questioning if I am sure about my question. The art, writing or speaking competitions are the things that adorn the day. What else to expect?
The 7th grader from a government public school was ecstatic about the early morning function in the school where the scout kind of dress is allowed to be put on along with the marching band-sweets and snacks being icing on the cake. He was giving me a suggestion if lunch could be also arranged for the children. The day could be spent like a picnic kind of a day.

             Preparation for March Past
To the middle aged gentlemen from the middle class common man family, it makes him realize that another year went by without really anything much but life as usual.
The daily labourer – 4th one in my list, not necessarily in that order, had a day break; this time 26th Jan coinciding with Sunday. Otherwise to him, it would have been another working day trying to make both ends meet.

It gives me a sense that apart from re-affirming about our constitutional sovereignty in our own mind and to the whole world by the gala display of the procession on Rajpath of national capital, Delhi - with a foreign dignitary presiding over the function, there is nothing much to it. In most of the places where this day is celebrated, the platform is used to express thanks and gratitude to a lot of folks providing services to us. During the function in our apartment complex, the plan was to hand over gifts to the security guards and the maintenance staff; at Delhi, the same happens through the Padma awards.
                                                         Girl Band at the school
Another Republic day went by - there is no measurement of country progressing on any front against any kind of benchmark. None bothers much about these and there is no accountability either from anyone.

I see the day not far away that this day will be celebrated in similar vein like any other national festivals like Diwali, Durga Puja, Eid or Christmas. In the cultural program in government public school, students enacted a dance sequence from a local hit movie after all the heavy staffs (lectures, national anthem, parade so on and so forth) were over.

What does it mean to me?

As part of my involvement in Rotary, I make it a point to take part in the program of our adopted school and later in the day, get to introspect about the progresses we made in different social areas and issues around. Though we have failed many times in the past, on this day, we take another vow to contribute somewhere someway to improve the situation of lives that need it most in an inclusive societal structure. Am sure there is nothing unique about it and do hope that all my conscious fellow citizens are doing much more to give our country a little more push to progress.