Heh!

I was reading an obit of veteran journalist Dharam Shourie just now, written by a correspondent who knew him well — and stumbled on this gem.

Shourie, who per the writer was a brilliant raconteur, once narrated the story of a journalist who, armed with a tape recorder, went to the office of a Cabinet minister for an interview.

The minister, much miffed, told the reporter to leave his tape recorder outside the room if he wanted the interview. When the reporter complied, and returned to the minister’s chamber, that worthy told him, ‘Why do you want to tape me? Are you trying to deny me my right to deny whatever I am about to tell you?!’

The pigeon-friendly chief minister

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati seeks a budgetary allocation of Rs 656 crore for building toilets for pigeons.

WADA update

Suresh Menon calls the face-off a ‘heart versus head’ issue and in this piece, attempts to balance those conflicting pulls.

SportsMagIndia — a site worth following for the occasional, well-reasoned posts on off-ball topics like marketing [read this earlier piece on the problems of Kashmiri bat manufacturers, for instance] — is all ‘head’ in its approach to the issue:

Regardless of the stature of sportspersons involved, if someone has an issue with their constitutional rights being infringed, then they do have a right to protest and ask for legally valid rules and regulations to be framed by governing bodies.

Interestingly, the two issues raised above present administrators and sportspersons with diametrically opposite constitutional law challenges (i.e. one regarding a player’s right to freedom of speech and expression, and the other regarding a player’s right to privacy). It would be fascinating to see how courts and administrative bodies across the world respond to these new challenges presented by sport!

Bingo, I’d say. Much continues to be made [vide Boria Majumdar in BBC] of the number of countries [191] and sports organizations [571] that have signed up for the WADA code; and of the plethora of big names that have accepted the code [Federer! Bolt!! Abhinav Bindra!!!].

The thing though is, bad law doesn’t become good law simply because a number of people accept rather than question it.

In passing: WADA says all this is designed as a deterrent. The players in the testing pool will never know when they are going to be tested, hence they will be forced to stay clean 24/7.

Here’s the Indian list: Sachin Tendulkar, Harbhajan Singh, Gautam Gambhir, Irfan Pathan, Zaheer Khan, M.S. Dhoni, Yuvraj Singh, Munaf Patel, Virender Sehwag, Jhulan Goswami and Mithali Raj.

And here’s my question: does it follow that there is no pressure, no compulsion, on the others in both the men’s and women’s teams? That they can do what they like during the off season and clean themselves up just before competition?

Clearly, that is not WADA’s intent — but by naming a testing pool, all that the doping body is doing is telegraphing its punches; whether this meets the stated objective however is a question I have reservations about.

Living in the here and now

Saw this last week in the midst of preoccupations with the missus and meant to throw it up here for those who might have missed a must-read: Aakash Chopra continues his series of articles written from a cricketer’s perspective, with a lovely piece on the art of concentration [here's the first in the series].

A few years ago I was selected to play in the Challenger Trophy (before I made my international debut). We had an interactive session with Geet Sethi, the billiards player, whose definition of concentration remains etched in my memory. He said that concentration is simply remaining in the present. The longer you can remain in the present, the greater your span of concentration. Sounds easy, right?

Nearly two decades of playing cricket has taught me that it isn’t. The mind has the peculiar ability of wandering off at the first available moment, and it doesn’t need any permission. You might be in the middle of an important match, playing an important knock or bowling the most crucial over, but the mind has a mind of its own. Two places it likes to wander off to are the past and the future.

I’d either start feeling bad or good about what had happened in the past – the ball before – and get disconnected from the present, or I would start worrying about or prematurely celebrating events in the future, getting away from the task at hand.

India in disguise

Are you England in disguise, Tim de Lisle asks the touring Australians after Michael Clarke with a repeat second innings century and Marcus North with a well compiled 96 saved the third Test.

Strange — for a while now, I’ve been wondering if Australia was India circa 1990s in disguise: performance that is below the paper strength of the team; controversial selections; non-performing spearheads; a captain who seems increasingly out of his depth in the field, to the detriment of his own batting… even a very India-like attempt to find ‘balance’ by dropping a talented neophyte opener and promoting an all-rounder [though that is one experiment that appears to have worked, with Shane Watson’s various body parts holding up under the strain, and with the batsman managing fifties in each innings. Watson looked the part, says Peter Roebuck.  [He only bowled 3 overs in the one innings England played, though, which seems a case of under-utilization].

With all the time lost due to rain, the most likely result at Edgbaston was always going to be a draw — but now, with two games to play and an Ashes series to win, Ricky Ponting and his men are really up against it. The Australians continue to make noises about how they are never more dangerous than when pushed to the wall — but to pull this one off they’ll need to create history; Ponting has never led his team to a win from behind, after trailing early in a series.

Shane Warne has a point: Australia seems to be struggling to take 20 wickets over the course of five days and for all the ‘he is improving’ buzz about Mitch Johnson, the bowler looked nowhere near being able to break through consistently. Oz needs Lee to play the enforcer and ideally, Stuart Clark and Shane Watson to spell each other in a containing role at one end so they can attack at the other. Save Lee for the final, is a thought you hear expressed fairly often — trouble is, with Oz needing to win two in two, you might as well then save him for the next Ashes series, if he cannot be used now.

Three days before it begins all over again; at this point, my money would be on a 1-1 result and Australia retaining the Ashes.