Thursday, January 31, 2008

International BCCI listening ?

Justice Hansen of New Zealand, himself, also the president of a Cricket Club, has said his piece.

A somewhat predictable end to a cricket field fight (having nothing directly to do with cricket, but everything to do with bad behaviour); a fight between players from India and Australia, respectively incensed and thrilled by the abominable umpiring by chaps from West Indies and England; a kachra level performance by a chap from South Africa, myopically functioning as a match referee. Finally a judge flies over from New Zealand to rap everyone on their gloved knuckles. Who have we left out ? Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh ....?

The game which started out as that played by the gentry in the Queen's land, folks in the pavilion gracefully applauding between bites of cucumber sandwiches and tea, (with a trip to the pub later), is now played in a modified cultural milieu, replete with spicy and alcoholic repasts..

Far removed from the time when Aussies and English verbally duelled on the pitch , in what my school teacher would have classified as gutter language, today, selective deafness, and advanced family and anatomical abuse seems to be a required qualification, in a game where , clean strokes, magical wristy flicks, spinning cherries, mighty sweeps, and asymptotic dives to block the ball, should have been the norm.

The advent of non-English speaking countries, the popularity of the game in these countries, and the rise of great players from these countries, has now introduced a factor, that the ICC with its stiff-upper-lip, loftily-perched -Anglo-based policy, needs to take a fast look at.

Once sledging is officially allowed under the guise of "playing hard and fair", you need umpires who understand what is tolerable and what is not. It will not suffice to have neutral umpires. Besides the rules of cricket, they will have to be well versed in choice abuse from all the countries.

A single match referee will not be enough. You will need a panel of chaps acting as match referees, so that there is one person from every country. Along with umpiring qualifications, folks will have to undergo multicultural sociological training. A comprehensive look at whats OK and what's not OK, depending on where the game is being played, between whom, during what part of the year.

This is where we folks from India are uniquely qualified .

With our amazing, unparalleled diversity of religions, languages, political parties, cross cultural understanding, and sometimes, purposeful non-understanding, as well as our capacity to live in a state of dynamic ,religious, economic, and cultural balance, we are uniquely set up to offer training to all the cricketing folks "who decide"..

The ICC should outsource this to India.

The BCCI can set up an International Institute at the Wankhede stadium, for the fine training of umpires and match referees. Now that doing things through video links has been successfully tried out during the monkey episodes, BCCI can even offer distance refresher courses, to those who forget all the bad words.

The trainees can then be taken on surprise tours of various vidhan sabhas where the speaker "umpire" has to often deal with non verbal communication in the form of flying microphones, chairs etc.

Situations that require facing dicey and unrelated reasoning can be handled by some folks from BCCI who specialise in confusing questions with answers .

One more source of income for BCCI. One more reason for some folks to gnash their teeth and crib about India's money power". One more somersault for people like Peter Roebuck.

And one more reason for someone like me,to hark back nostalgically, to her schooldays in a co-ed school, where school bullies always existed, rules were flouted, tearful and brave complaints were made, and the entire problem was successfully dealt with by the teachers, who used tough discipline, great understanding , and the active co-operation of other students to handle it, without making a song , dance and court case about it.

Monday, January 21, 2008

The Ratnas, Padmas and Sirs.....

Its that time of the year again.

Its time for the "granting of the favours" . Earlier it was more like "granting of the honours".

My childhood years were TV-less, Internet-less, but studded with the haunting sounds of the AIR (All India Radio, NOT All India Rank) signature tune playing in the early rays of the sun as we got ready or school /college and assorted games practice classes.

Vividh Bharati and Radio Ceylon did the film songs, and for a long time I used to think that Mohammed Rafi actually went to Ceylon to sing Actually , it didn't really matter, as that wasn't something that was on the parents approved-list of things to do, and so was enjoyed surreptitiously.

Newspapers were full of news, rarely sensations. There was a sanctity about high places and with those that occupied them. Republic Day honours often delighted everyone, and one's parents were often observed nodding their approval. If there was a desperate behind-the-scenes plotting or skirmish, one never heard or saw it. Consequently , we grew up with a healthy respect for those in high places.

My children today cannot say the same. Government has become an ocean of opportunities, all to be grabbed with hands, feet ,relatives, and anything else you can think off, and if you stop to think about rights,wrongs and rules, you would probably qualify for the Padma Murkha Award for that year.....

Republic Day has become a day on which one peruses the Padma Award lists to see how many and which people have succeeded , sometimes, not in their fields of work , but in the back-scratching-favour-returning sweepstakes.

This year takes the cake. The "Competition" for Bharat Ratna has hotted up. And to think that I always thought it was an inspired decision at the topmost echelons of government, seemingly removed from the brat-race.

Never have political parties , so blatantly put up their candidates to compete for the country's highest Award.

So far there was a massive lack of finesse in deciding the Padma Awards. That the Ratna Award should be haggled about , has severely demeaned its value, and if that's the way things proceed, then the award should be scrapped.

Witness how Advani proposes Vajpayeeji's name. You serious ? The combative left responds with Jyoti Basu's, only to have some theoretical communist types harrumph loudly and say they don't accept "State Awards"..... Madam Mayawati emerges from her state sponsored diamond encrusted birthday celebrations to demand that the founder of her party , Kanshi Ramji is really the only choice; get ready for a whole bunch of National Parks, maidans, colleges, universities, airports etc to be named after him. I only hope they leave the Arabian Sea, and Bay of Bengal alone.

With Madam in the race, can Mulayamji be left behind ? No siree. Bharat Ratna for him too. And never mind those court cases. They are almost like a qualification today. Accused but not convicted. And so , in a shameless manifestation of the "me too" syndrome, Laloo Prasad Yadav in a display of Bihari inspiration, nominates two leaders of his state posthimously in an alarmingly sudden manner; Jagjeevan Ram and Karpoori Thakurji ki Jai. Who are they ? Does it matter ?

Naveen Patnaik of Orissa, suddenly feels that it's high time his father Biju Patnaik is awarded the Bharat Ratna. That Tamil Nadu will surge forward with a nomination request for Karunanidhi is one of my few correct predictions. And I hear, that NT Rama Rao's daughter, who is, what else, a MP or a minister in Delhi, feels that her father is actually a "gem" of a choice for the Ratna Award.

What candidates ! What amazing choices ! And none of the above, can claim to be universally , nay, nationally , without reservation (was that a pun?) , admired .

Quiz the citizenry, and you get the real answers.

Why not Kumble, who came through in flying colours, when he handled the monkey business in Sydney. Dignified, serious, to the point, and very firm, he united the team as never before. His interviews and declarations would put a diplomat to shame. He allowed every Indian to hold the head high, and never mind who won the match. Applause came from across a cross section of cricketing and non cricketing folks. The spinner excelled as a statesman, and never mind those 600 wickets. Everyone admires him, with or without the cricket.

Why not Baba Amte, who singlemindedly brought dignity, self respect and success to those affected with leprosy, and created a haven, nay heaven for them at Anandvan, toiling away through an entire life, lately almost bedridden, without expecting any fruits of his labour, in the highest spiritual tradition ?

Why not Ratan Tata, the doyen of industrial India, who used available excellent Indian technical expertise to come up with a one lakh car, so that those forced to travel "quadruple seat", with children hanging on for dear life between parents on a single motorcycle, could have a safer option? (When his uncle the great JRD was nominated for the award, he(JRD) is reported to have wondered how he fitted in, as he was neither a politician , nor yet dead. .....)

Maybe the biggest hint has come from the Rt Hon. Gordon Brown Esq., Prime Minsiter of Great Britain.

Speaking at a function during his recently concluded official visit, he mentioned Sachin Tendulkar as a likely candiddate for a British Knighthood.

I suppose, while Mumbaicha Mulga, Master Blaster, Little Master, Khel Ratna, are all names dear to Sachin's heart, one more Ratna Award would be greatly appreciated, an accepted with great humility, maybe with a longish look at someone Up There , in the sky, who he always look up to.

About the Brtish Knighthood, all we can say, is , "Agobai, ata Sir Sachin ka ? Hmm."

Saturday, January 12, 2008

A non-cricketing sociological take on the monkey business in Sydney

Two grown men calling each other names. What is worse, instead of slugging it out right there, mentally or physically, they run to the umpires. Whats still worse, the umpires, instead of decreeing a punishment to both, right there, simply run up to their own umpire, whose behaviour often reminds me, of that of the Lok Sabha speaker (when members physically intimidate each other with chairs, microphones etc) , which one inadvertently sees on TV while surfing. He is seen to be doing something, but in reality nothing constructive happens.

There is something to be said in favour of making people hold their ears and do sit ups, make folks stand in a corner for hours, be denied lunch, and write 10,000 lines saying "I will not abuse " etc.

Someone needs to do a sociology study related to cricket.

Why do Australians sledge so much ?

Is it a defense mechanism for something, despite their acknowledged superiority in various facets of the game ?

Why does Symmonds, the only non-white member of the team smear his face day in and day out with a white sunscreen, despite having, genetically, more melanin in his skin giving him better protection, than , say, Ponting ,Gichrist, Clark et al, who don't use so much, but can still give Kareena Kapoor stiff competition in the Safedi Complexion Sweepstakes ? They say the sunscreen company sponsors him, and money is the consideration.

Does it have to do with a self perception of being "different" , caused maybe, by some childhood experience , of being different in a white world ? Does this also explain the use of bullying tactics in the field, where actually the bat and ball should suffice ? Does it explain why a friendly pat of the bat of Brett Lee's back by Harbhajan, caused ONLY Symmonds to "dutifully" rush in to interfere, despite the fact that Lee wasn't complaining ? Does Symmonds have to try to be more equal than others ?

Harbhajan may have called him a monkey or even something worse. Actually, any word would have been OK with the Australians. The purpose was to create a situation where he wouldn't play further.

They say power corrupts. Yes, it first corrupts the mind.

In any society, when someone has been at the top for a long time, and there is a perceived challenge from someone else, two things can happen. One, you do your best, stretching your physical and mental limits, then sit back and accept what happens . The other way, is to manipulate things so that your challenger is seen in a bad light, you build more on that, and achieve success by hook or by crook, mostly by crook.

What path you choose to follow depends on who is at the top. Watch the body language of Ponting and his boys, on the video visual where he tells the umpire that Clark took Ganguly's catch. The leader of the pack , his finger up, is dictating stuff; the expressions on the faces of the juniors standing behind, display their amazement at the blatant capitulation on the umpire's part in response to Ponting's so called bravado. When the man at the top is a thief, the others get lessons in stealing.

Happens all the time. In life as well as in politics, and , well, cricket.

Getting to play a test/ODI match is fine. But you are supposed to have made the grade when the entire opposition crouches around you on the pitch mouthing unprintable abuse. You learn to ignore. You also learn the abuse.

Sometimes you answer with a six-run hit, or four-letter word.

Time was when one did sports for exercise, entertainment, as an excuse for not studying, and sometimes, because you had aptitude for it. You played till you ran out of perspiration. So did your friends. There were scrapes, scraps , a bit of fisticuffs, swallowed tears and perceived insults; but ten years down the line, you always looked back fondly on those days, as you met up to have a drink with the guy who actually kicked you on your backside in the final round .

Reactions have been diverse.

The chief referee, Proctor, who accuses Harbhajan, says he knows about racism, since he hails from South Africa. That's like Musharraf saying he knows about democracy.

The ICC Chairman, Speed, would shine in another avatar as an Indian politician, as he redefines the reasons behind the removal of umpires; "they had a bad game ..." !

But the best has come from Michael Holding. He called the whole thing rubbish, and said something, that I have been wanting to say for a LONG time : that monkeys are our ancestors, everyone, regardless of color has descended from them, and calling that racial, is rubbish.

Actually, folks have a doubt whether Harbhajan said anything remotely connected with monkeys.

Some said he cursed Symmonds, in "accepted" Punjabi style, in words that had something to do with Maa.

Others are convinced that, playing his valiant knock of 63 against great odds, Harbhajan was singing a prayer he learnt in school that went "man ki shakti, Tan ki shakti, de Bhagawan...", and Symmonds, only heard the beginning. (What a pity. If Hayden had heard the whole song, he would have shaken Bhajji's hand in admiration.)

Still others claim that Harbhajan was tired and tried to psyche himself up with virtual energy, by singing "Man ki shakti, Bournevita!" as he flitted around between the stumps, and Symmonds hear the first part....

he new analysis of the rhesus monkey genome, conducted by an international consortium (Baylor College of Medicine's Human Genome Sequencing Center in Houston), of more than 170 scientists, reveals that humans and the monkeys share about 93 percent of their DNA. By comparison, humans and chimpanzees share about 98 to 99 percent of their DNA.

While monkeys across the world are probably disgusted with the going ons in their name, by humans who should know better, maybe its time for someone in Bollywood to make a song about chimpanzees ?

And commission Brett Lee, who is so good with his guitar, to sing it ?