Viru hits out

How do you tame a dissident? Simple — you give him a seat at the top table.

Vide Sunil Dev. At one time in his career, the long-serving DDCA official used to go out of his way to draw the attention of journalists to everything that was going wrong in Delhi, and Indian, cricket. This link is to just one of the many occasions he has spoken to me on such issues, during the days when I used to cover cricket on a regular basis. And here, mention of a hilarious face off between Dev and Dalmiya, with each suing the other for progressively larger sums.

I just saw the gent on TV, going — with eyes as wide as he can get them — ‘Corruption? What corruption? What is Sehwag talking about? Why is he talking about it?’

All this because Sehwag said he is fed up of the corruption in the unit, and wants to quit Delhi. To which Dev’s response is a pithy ‘mind your own business’.

And it is not as if corruption in the DDCA — known to the cognoscenti as the best watering hole in the national capital for cheap booze — is unheard of. It is not even as if this is the first time Sehwag has raised the issue. It is not as if the DDCA is not aware of the problem — in fact, it set a precedent by sacking its selection committee over such shenanigans, not so long ago.

Word among cricket journalists is that even in the notoriously corrupt world of state-level selections, the DDCA sets standards others cannot even aspire to — on which, Sharda Ugra, some time back. And historically, a vicious cycle has perpetuated itself: for instance, Chetan Chauhan while serving as vice president of the DDCA raised red flags about corruption; but then, as chairman of the selection committee, managed to get his nephew into the team.

In fact, the situation is so bad that earlier this year, the government of India appointed a three-member committee to oversee its workings [Who is the government to talk, Dev might well ask].

Oh well. Stand by for much back and forth, he-said he-said — till the next controversy comes along and everyone can go back to business as usual. Somewhere along the way, Sehwag will meet with Arun Jaitley who will assure him that his concerns will be looked into.

From the desk of the acclaimed Hindu statesman

Rajan Zed fears a Julia Roberts-starrer will depict Hinduism in bad light.

Rajan Zed says that ‘namaste’ is a greeting that symbolizes love and respect.

Rajan Zed asks that the makers of the Cities of Love series include Mumbai in the list because it is home to the largest movie industry.

Rajan Zed wants prominent Australian entertainers to respond to AR Rahman’s gesture and hold concerts in major Indian cities.

Rajan Zed urges celebrities to explore the spiritual side of yoga.

Rajan Zed believes AR Rahman opening a studio in LA will help further popularize Indian music.

Rajan Zed argues that the Oscars will gain added credibility by introducing a Best Bollywood Movie award [the gent clearly hasn't heard of Marathi, Malayalam, Tamil, Telugu, Orissa, Bengali and other vibrant language movie industries] where Hindi movies can compete among themselves.

Here’s the scary thought: All of these in August alone, and the month is only 17 days old.

PostScript:

A tip for newspaper editors: The words “acclaimed Hindu statesman” that inevitably begins the second graf of his press statements should, if used in your copy, go in quotes. As above. Because you are quoting him as saying he is an acclaimed Hindu statesman. You are not stating ineluctable fact.

A request to headline writers: ‘Rajan Zed asks for Best Bollywood Movie Oscar’ is correct. NOT ‘Hindus ask for Best Bollywood Movie Oscar’. There is a difference. Rajan Zed is an idiot a Hindu. Singular. He is not vast; he does not, to channel John Donne, contain multitudes.

Thank you.

An *issue* to take up

My friend Kapil Sharma, formerly of Washington DC and since 2006-07 a Mumbai resident in good standing, has a suggestion for the government of India that is currently looking for “issues” to “take up strongly”:

My point is that visiting foreigners to India may not be officially “detained,” but do face “shake down” treatment when it comes to paying customs and duties. We experienced this when coming to Mumbai, when they accused my wife of being a gold smuggler at 3am with a crying 2 year old. Funny though, I bet you the GOI couldn’t tell you how long we were detained.

Before the GOI goes around criticizing how other governments conduct their security and customs procedures, they should make sure that their own system is functional and error free. At least the US system has some form of transparency.

Not suggesting that the documented problems at Indian airports should be a reason for the government not to take up issues relating to how Indian nationals are treated in airports around the world — but the breast-beating over SRK being detained at Newark, and the ill-considered [and syntax-challenged] reactions of some at least in the government leaves a bad taste in the mouth.

Then again, this is Ambika Soni after all — a ‘politician’ who opens her mouth only to remove the foot that was previously in it so she can stick the other one in.


More Bolt

The race in Berlin was different because Bolt had a worthy challenger, a defending world champion who ran like one and would have been able to repeat were he not running against a superstar for the ages. And yet the outcome was never in doubt. “I got a good start,” said Bolt. “Then I got into my drive phase and after 50 meters I knew I was in good shape.”

Sports Illustrated, on the race and after. In passing, Carl Lewis’ doubts must have been underlined even further now, no? Clip from an interview a year ago:

I’m still working with the fact that he dropped from 10-flat to 9.6 in one year. I think there are some issues. I’m proud of America right now because we have the best random and most comprehensive drug testing program. Countries like Jamaica do not have a random program, so they can go months without being tested. I’m not saying anyone is on anything, but everyone needs to be on a level playing field.

LA Times underlines the unbelievable nature of the achievement:

“He has taken not just this sport but sport in general to a new place,” said Ato Boldon, the four-time Olympic sprint medalist and NBC commentator.

“We have to rethink everything we know about human performance. I used to talk about times in the area of 9-low as some kind of unicorn-like fantasy, but he has made fantasy into reality.”

This was Bob Beamon breaking the long jump world record by more than two feet at the 1968 Olympics, Wilt Chamberlain scoring 100 points in an NBA game, Michael Phelps winning his eighth gold medal — all feats that seemed practically impossible before they occurred.

As many expected, Bolt turned his much-hyped duel with Tyson Gay of the United States into a battle between one man and history, even though reigning world champion Gay ran an exceptional race to finish second in 9.71. That is the third-fastest time in history, beaten only by Bolt’s two world records.

Imagine the plight of a guy who runs the third fastest time in history — and is beaten by, what, 0.13 of a second? In the short sprint, that is an eternity.

Come back SRK, all is forgiven

The Indian government is ‘taking up strongly‘ the case of Shah Rukh Khan who, gasp, horrors, was detained for questioning at Newark airport. The Left led by Prakash Karat, I’m told, is celebrating — they’ve been saying all along that this strategic partnership with the US is all hokum and needs to be axed forthwith.

Meanwhile, my heart goes out to Shah Rukh. While we feel outraged [Even Gotham Chopra is not immune from this pervasive sense of outrage. Hell, even his wife Candace is not immune, and that should tell you something -- at the least, it tells you that Bob Dylan really doesn't rate similarly iconic status], and the Khans of Bollywood with one exception unite under the ‘My name is Khan’ banner [any resemblance to an upcoming movie is purely coincidental], my heart goes out to the star.

Now that the US knows who he is, surely they can honor a couple of simple wishes?

1: Shah Rukh Khan does not want an apology. He is very clear about that. Come on, America — is that too much to ask, that you don’t say sorry?

2. Shah Rukh Khan wants to go back to his country. Again — is that too much to ask? Buy the man a ticket, for god’s sake.

Oh, you mean he wants to come back to his country after he is done performing at half a dozen other venues, for which he has already been booked and paid?

Okay then… make that an open ticket.

PS: This from Sepia Mutiny.

Exits, comebacks…

It was only when I read the news of his retirement that I realized Vinod Kambli, last seen in Test action in 1995 and in the limited form in 2000, was actually still ‘available’ till the other day. Preternaturally talented, manically self-destructive [at least until the late 2006 marriage, his second, to Andrea Hewitt, at which point he showed some sign of finding the personal sense of equilibrium he appeared to have misplaced], Kambli for me is the single greatest instance in modern times of talent wasted partly due to his own shortcomings and partly due to the short-sightedness of an administrative structure that has neither the skill, nor the inclination, for effective man-management.

Elsewhere, Rahul Dravid returns to the one-day squad — which, as Sidharth Monga argues, may not in and of itself be a bad thing. The thinking seems to be, India’s young guns have been found out by pace and bounce, we need a semblance of solidity, and there is nothing as solid as Dravid, ergo. Fair enough.

But that is at best part of a solution — and a short term one at that. What is not equally clear to me is whether the BCCI has some sort of mechanism for rehabilitation. Having identified Rohit Sharma as the one player with this weakness [Suresh Raina, to quote just one other example, didn't shape all that well against the shorter ball but he seems to be back in the side], what next? Do selectors red flag the player, send the board a note saying this kid is a talent but he has a problem we need to work on? Does the board then consult with its experts in the coaching academy, and send Sharma to the NCA for some intensive work on technique? Absent any of this, merely substituting a Dravid for a Sharma is nothing more than a band aid applied to a wound, while the underlying infection is allowed to go untreated.

In passing — a question for the selectors: what is the problem with Pragyan Ojha? Do you know? And if you do, have you communicated your thoughts to the player, and advised him on what he needs to do next? Or is the Misra for Ojha switch merely one more example of the easy come, easy go, plenty more fish in the pond thinking that characterizes our cricket administration?