Monday, November 27, 2006

MPs and Greg Chappell ..... In Defence of our MPs

Yet again the focus has shifted away from the playing field. We see a pig-headed coach saying rubbish about the politicians of India, or, more specifically, the members of Parliament. There are a couple of things that astound me out here. One being Chappell’s fetish with money; and, second, the reactions of sections of the fans and the sections of the media. I shall try and tackle them one by one.

Firstly, Greg Chappell. He was a fantastic batsman and a wonderful captain. It is a fact that he is a very lousy coach. Forget the results, we don’t look like competing in any match. Some time back, he had said that Ganguly wanted to stay in the team, and as a captain, for money. Now, he says that MPs are ‘PAID’ to decry him. There is one thing that he must realize. For most Indians, cricket is a passion. We watch the team play because of the tri-colour and insipid performances on the field. It does not matter to us how much is a player or a coach paid, as long as they play well. And we Indians don’t need to be PAID to cheer our team and criticize them.

The second, and more important issue, is the reaction that I see by sections of the media and fans. They say that politicians should shut up about cricket, they anyways don’t run the country well, so on and so forth. I humbly ask, if politicians opining about cricket is so damn pathetic, why is a respected politician the head of BCCI? India is not the only country where politicians have taken interest in the most popular sport of the country. Agreed, they fair miserably on the jobs that they are actually supposed to do, but that does not mean that they cannot raise an issue that the whole country is talking about.

At least the politicians of our country are lamenting the fact that our team is not winning matches. Go back a few years, and the prime minister of Australia had called Muralitharan a chucker. He holds the highest office and had the cheek to make a comment on one of the greatest bowlers of all time, and the remark was uncalled for. There is a governing body in cricket that looks at issues like chucking and he actually made a statement on what he believed was right. At least our MPs, however bad they might be, have been lamenting the fact that our team has been performing pathetically. It is surprising that why are sections of the media covering up for Greg.

As fans, we have a right to expect our team to perform brilliantly on the field. The fact that the team is not doing well is something that the coach should accept and rectify. I read that ‘the coach can’t bat or bowl or field, the players have to do that and hence they should be blamed and not the coach’. Well, if everything is to be done by the players, then why have a coach at all?

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Geet Sethi - The song we forgot to sing

There are things that are surreal and then there are things that are beyond explanation. Let me tell you the surreal bit first. There exists an Indian sportsman who has been winning world titles since the early nineties. This sportsman has won the highest number of world championships in the world, in his discipline. He won his first world title in his twenties and then won his eighth title at the ripe old age of 43. He has set world records galore. He is also an Asian games gold medalist for India. This surreal phenomenon’s name is Geet Sethi.

Now for something that is beyond explanation. A country that starves for its sportsmen to succeed does not bother to felicitate the greatest and winningest (pardon the incorrect English) sportsman it has ever produced. A man who has been bringing glory to his sport for nearly two decades. A man who is India’s best hope of winning a championship, when he is nearing an age when the candles on his birthday cake might cost more than the cake itself. How conveniently have we forgotten, or chosen to ignore, Geet Sethi.

People probably would say that Geet Sethi is not the greatest sportsman that India has produced. How many people know him? How many people know Billiards? Tendulkar or Kapil Dev or Sunil Gavaskar should have that honour. I have a few points to make here. The first is the fact that people do not know of billiards is not Geet’s fault. It takes an equal amount of hard work and practice to be a champion, be it in cricket, shooting, tennis or billiards. And the greatest sportsman of the country can never be decided by consensus, as that weighs way too much towards the most popular sport in the country.

The second point is that most people of our generation know billiards because of Geet Sethi. Sachin or Kapil, had they not played cricket people would still have been crazy about it. Players like Geet Sethi have had an impact on the sport they play in for years. Sethi’s impact has been felt for nearly two decades. I can safely say that had Geet Sethi decided to be a corporate executive, people after Michael Ferreira’s era would not have known anything about billiards, and unless Pankaj Advani comes up in a big way the generation after ours wouldn’t talk of it either. Lance Armstrong, Michael Schumacher, Chilly Rathore and Geet Sethi have made their discipline popular; they are synonymous with the sport they play. Does anybody bother to know whose record did Lance Armstrong beat to be the highest winner of the Tour de France? The absence of Sachin does not make cricket any less popular, Dhoni and Pathan would do, but Geet’s absence might kill billiards in India.

Thirdly, Geet Sethi is probably the only champion to have come out of India. He is the only person who has won eight world titles. Kapil’s Devils won India a world cup, Geet Sethi won India a gold medal in the Asian Games, and more countries participate there than in a cricket World Cup. Add to that the fact that he has world records for the highest break in the cue sport.

But the thing that makes Geet Sethi the greatest sportsman in my mind is the fact that he has done so much for the sport. I think it was 1997 when Gold Flake decided to stop sponsoring the billiards world championship and due to lack of sponsorship the event couldn’t be played that year. Come 1998, Geet Sethi roped in a sponsor, Florsheim, and organized the world championship in Ahmedabad single-handedly. By the way, he also won the championship beating the then world champion Mike Russell.

One can keep writing about the great man. But today, a week after he has won his 8th world title I very humbly ask: isn’t Geet Sethi a champion we should have celebrated? We, the citizens of a country thirsty for sporting successes? Shouldn’t the media talk more about him? We should have been singing paens, celebrating this hero. But alas, Geet Sethi is a song we have all chosen to forget. Sorry, Geet!

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Aamir's concerned about NBA? Yeah!! Right!!!!!

I don't know if the word hypocrite does justice to a person like Aamir Khan. The issue isn't about whether some star should put her or his weight behind the displaced poor in the Narmada valley, it never was. The real question is that do the people, like Aamir Khan, walk the talk?

Let's look at Aamir Khan the person. I am a huge fan of the actor. He is second to none. So, this great actor is now doing on TV what he does best! Acting. Let's go back a few years.

Aamir had shunned press because he felt they weren't good to him, in not as many words. I have issues with some sections of the press who report unworthy things such as the news.

But good journalists exist, so do good newspapers and also good news channels. What the great actor had done is shunned them for good. He refused to talk to them because they wouldn't write good things about him.

Now, Aamir Khann has movies lined up for release. He needs to promote those movies and badly needs the press, the 'demons'. The people he abhors and had refused to speak to.

If he were to go to these people say "I want to talk about Rang De... or Fanaa", we all know what the response would have been. He wouldn’t apologise. So what does he do? Make a smokescreen.

Tell the press that I want to support an issue. He may not care two hoots about the issues, but he needs to be seen so that the press says 'Aamir khan spoke about the NBA people. By the way, his movie is due for a May release, the promos have started appearing. That's exactly what he wanted and that's exactly what he has done.

He started supporting Khushboo before Rang De... released and to every question by the youth he brought up Rang De Basanti.

Now's the time for Fanaa and he wants to empathise with the displaced villagers from a room in a 5-star hotel in Delhi.

He never followed up about Khushboo? He has said that he may not be able to give NBA his full support. That means, once the movie has hit the screens he’ll show everybody the middle finger and go into his shell.

Then would be his new film's release in the near future and he'd look for an issue.

He says he was driving in Delhi and saw these people and then wanted to join them and raise the issue after spending one day (what a long time) to understand their problems.

Thank god he wasn't in Kolkata. He’d have seen a few people oppose Sourav’s exclusion from the team and then started batting for the southpaw. And had he been in Jodhpur he might have sided with the Bishnois or, god forbid, Salman killer Khan.

I don’t understand!! Is the media so na├»ve as to not understand the motives of this crusader by convenience? Celebrities like Rahul Bose have shown the way.

He has been helping in the Andamans even after we seem to have forgotten about the Tsunami. Highlight his efforts. Highlight the efforts of Valmik Thapar who has been fighting for our national animal for 30 years.

Fight for Medha Patkar who has always fought for the rights of the poor in the NBA.

People like Aamir Khan don’t deserve to be heard if they have vested personal interests like being seen while his latest release’s promos have come on air.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Commonwealth Games, Dawood's Party, what's the difference?

I firmly believe that Mallika Sherawat should have been the mascot for the Delhi Commonwealth Games, 2010. What all TV channels were raving about as a spectacle that has ignited high hopes for Delhi was nothing different from a movie awards night. People who have nothing to do with sport graced Melbourne. Who the hell is Aishwarya Rai? Rani Mukherji looks like an overweight belle and the only sport Saif Ali Khan has been reported to indulge in is SHIKAR. People were talking about Kapil Dev, Sunny Gavaskar, Ajit Pal Singh, Prakash Padukone and Michael Ferreira but the only people I saw were Priyanka Chopra and Lara Dutta, and a few glimpses of Vijay Amritraj.

But we don’t need these bollywood clowns dancing. They do not represent what India is all about. I have never seen film stars dance at any Olympic Games or Commonwealth games outside India. Singers? Yes. Theme songs should be sung. Have you ever seen even Tom Cruise perform> Which Hollywood actor danced when the US staged the Olympics and the FIFA World Cup? But when the Olympic torch was brought to India, Bipasha Basu carried it. PT Usha was not even invited to do the honours. Has a sportsman ever been asked to perform in their farcical awards function?

During the 1996 world cup opening ceremony at Eden Gardens we saw Saeed Jaffery address the English team as Zimbabwe and many more such bloopers. What a ham that guy is!! I thought others would realize from then on and keep these people out of sport. But, alas!!

The bollywood stars would never say no to all these. They work if they are paid. They care 2 hoots about India’s honour. None of them would have done this for free. But at the end of the day they are nautankiwalas and nautankiwaalis. It’s all about buying them. Be it LN Mittal’s daughter’s wedding or an awards function or a Commonwealth Games ceremony, or Dawood’s party, pay them and you can buy them, to sing and dance. I can only thank the heavens that at least the singers were good. But hold your horses, come 2010 and you might even hear Himesh Reshmiya’s nose singing.

That’s why I felt that in a mujra like this, it’d have been apt if Mallika Sherawat were to be the mascot for the Delhi Commonwealth Games, 2010.

And so many news channels, I did not hear even one of them castigate this! Bloody shame!

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Is it fair?

I have no bloody clue. I am dazed. LN Mittal? Well, I once happened to read a column that wrote about the return of a prodigal son. The story, as it goes, is about a farmer. He has two sons who he managed to bring up with a lot of difficulty and happiness. The older son, one fine day, left home to earn somewhere and lead a life more comfortable than what he’d have at the village by tilling his fields. The father was shocked and shattered. The younger son held the family together. He toiled in the fields. He worked hard so that his old parents live comfortably. He provided. Food, comfort, peace of mind for years. He felt he needed to fulfill his duties as a son because he owed so much to the ones who brought him up.

One morning, the prodigal son returned. Was it because he became unwanted somewhere or he now needed his family after deserting them for years? Nobody knew. The father, who was longing to see his son for years - the son who went to lands afar without even telling anybody – was thrilled to have the prodigal child back. Amidst tears of joy he hugged his son and said it was no nice to have him back. Now the family is complete again. That night he called the whole village for a feast to share this happiest moment in life with them, his son had returned.

In one remote corner stood the younger son. He kept wondering – “I could have left my old parents in the lurch to seek comforts for myself in lands new, probably greener, but I stayed back and did my duty. I was never acknowledged and never did seek it. What is my fault that my father has forgotten me?”

The same is the story of a LN Mittal and his bid to take over Arcelor. He is an NRI. He has employed very few Indians. He has made himself a fortune, living in England. He buys steel companies abroad and makes even more money by his amazing business acumen. He now wants to buy a French company that, probably, in no way would help India or Indians. Why do we need to highlight this prodigal tycoon’s business ventures so much? Dr. Manmohan Singh also brought this up with Jacques Chirac. I fail to understand why.

After all these years Mittal has now shown an interest to do something in India. But that’s too little too late. Nothing’s happened yet. Why does our PM need to discuss something that is the personal financial interest of an NRI? Racism, one might say. One may say that what has happened to Mittal today might happen to other Indians tomorrow. Well, something even worse had ened some time back in France. Sikh children were banned from French schools as they were wearing patkas or turbans. The French had said many silly things. Don’t show your religion. It would damage the French. They might be terrorists. Cut your hair. Those people are still oppressed, because of racist and religious reasons. Our media is mum about a greater number of people. Our Sikh PM didn’t find this a moving enough thing to tell his French counterpart.

It is shameful. Probably Manmohan had his reasons. The Sikh in France don’t have Mittal’s money. Or probably Sonia Gandhi had asked him not to. Minority vote bank politics is ok in India, rather it is a must. When the reasons are right, we should shut up. LN Mittal is a very rich man. Let’s please him. Let’s pretend to appease Muslims. Sikhs anyways are a smaller vote bank, unlike Muslims. Probably, these were Congress’ thoughts.

And shame on our free press. Really, Mittal winning or losing another bid is not going to affect Indians in India in any way.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

On Cricket Pundits!

I sit on my bean bag in front of the idiot box and look at “experts” analyse cricket. I listen to the drivel dished out by the ex-cricketers and say, “blessed be thy soul of the wise man who gave J L Baird’s invention the name - idiot box.” I happened to read Mr. Rajdeep Sardesai’s blog on his very interactive website and a few lines stuck out like a sore thumb. He said “At one level, the cricket punditry is valuable. Would you rather listen to someone whose played 50 tests or someone who has never scored a run or taken a wicket in his life?” and I could not help but feel let down that a comment like that should come from one of my favourite journalists. Please let explain to you why did it hurt so bad.

I, the average cricket follower, do need expert opinion on cricket matches and cricket, in general. But anybody who has played 50 international matches does not qualify as an expert on the sport. I would listen to someone who has not played a single match, if s/he speaks sense. I cannot get myself to believe that journalists like Sonali Chander and Rajdeep Sardesai aren’t experts but people like Aaqib Javed and Madan Lal are. That Salman Butt is pushing at deliveries outside the off stump and that Sehwag lacks footwork isn’t something an expert needs to tell me. Anybody who’s watched this beautiful game would know. And what is nowadays is passed off as analysis needs to be re-looked at. Painting a Shahenshah, analysing post match conferences or what a coach said, sic ad nauseum, is not what one calls analysis. And all that load of rubbish is dished out by ex-cricketers. To top it all there’s a world cup winning hero, who aspired to be the Indian coach, who starts singing the moment he is on TV. For heavens’ sake, please get them off the tube. Its no better in print. Moin Khan got a slap on his face when he wrote so insightfully about Sachin being a spent force, and was proven wrong. That shows how well our experts can analyse. And believe me, all hell breaks loose when somebody pits two ex-cricketers against each other for analysing a game. It seems less like analysis and more like a confederation of warring tribes.

I would, and I am sure that the majority of cricket lovers would, love to see people like Harsha Bhogle, Sharda Ugra, Ram Guha, Vijay Lokpally, R. Mohan, Sanjay Jha, Ayaz Memon etc. analyse for us. None of them have taken a wicket or scored an international run but they understand the sport better and analyse it wonderfully. If anybody were to ask - “how can they criticise Sachin for playing a bad shot? Has that person played a single international match?” – I believe that person should be asked to shut up. Going by that yardstick, if one happens to go to a restaurant and finds that the gravy tastes like grease and complains to the manager and if he or she were to be told “how many cook books have you written? Only a Tarla Dala or a Sanjeev Kapoor or a Jiggs Kalra have a right to criticise”. How would you feel? I don’t need to be a cook to give my views on food. Rajdeep Sardesai and Prannoy Roy have not been in any economic review committees but are they questioned when they analyse the budget? They haven’t stood for elections but does anybody question them when they give reasons as to why Nitish won and Lalu lost? The same should apply for cricket. I am not saying that all ex-cricketers are bad. Nobody can analyse the game as well as Richie Benaud, Sunil Gavaskar, Ravi Shastri or Geoff Boycott can. But to think that all ex-cricketers would be able to reach that level, is being foolish.

Nobody seems to have a problem with a bunch of buffoons selecting the cricket team as selectors. How many have played international cricket? This is just analysis that is happening on our TV sets, why can’t we have some real experts, who’ve dedicated their lives bringing cricket to us – thru their pen or thru the camera? That is why I feel let down when I surf news channels and am forced to choose between the awful and the rubbish ad infinitum. People like Prannoy Roy, Rajdeep Sardesai, Karan thapar, Barkha Dutt etc have really raised the bar as far as reporting news and current affiars goes because they didn’t get into the trap of letting the so called “experts” analyse it. Please use the same yardsticks as far as this analysing this beautiful game goes. Please choose real experts and ex-cricketres extremely carefully. Or else the die is cast as far as cricket analysis goes. Alea jacta est!!!