‘Your presence is our present’

Just received three wedding invitations in the post, two of which have variants on the subject line above.

Sadly, none of the invitations I received was this. Or even this:


Butt naturally

After defecation the “Linga” (generative organ) is to be washed once, “Guda” (anus) to be washed three times, the left hand to be washed ten times, and the right hand seven times, and both the feet to be cleaned with earth and water three times.

Courtesy Amit Varma.

A matter of taste

So how does it feel to have gone through a world level tournament that had lots of strategy but no strategy breaks? A tournament that saw over 130 sixes but not a single DLF-maximum? A tournament brought to you by commentators [admittedly of varying shades of quality], not carnival barkers?

Ask not for whom the fireworks go off...

Ask not for whom the fireworks go off...

Of the many things about the IPL that got my goat, the final straw came after the final. Ravi Shastri, winner by a mile of the title of barker-in-chief, was doing the presentation, and he kicked off with an exhaustive listing of the sponsors. That was followed up by an even more exhausting — literally — list of the planeload of IPL, BCCI and ICC honchos who thronged the makeshift dais for the presentation.

And then came the moment to ask the runners up and the winners to come up on stage and get their medals. Players came, players went — and not a single one of them was named; Shastri switched off and stood there while the players in all their anonymity trooped on stage, and off again.

Would it have been too much to ask the presenter to name each player as he came up on stage — as Nasser Hussain did so punctiliously at the end of yesterday’s final?

But then, the World Cup is about the players; the IPL is about everything but.

While on that, from SportsMag India, this piece on why the DLF-ers and such ended up pissing off the audience big time.

The IPL and its Sponsors will soon realize that effective brand communications are those that convey meaningful messages to an audience’s event experience. Those communications that divert the attention of the audience from the experience that they are trying to have, or intrude, onto an audience’s event experience are less likely to be viewed as being effective and more likely to be viewed as being merely a necessary evil. For cricketing audiences, a shot that clears the boundary is a six and will remain a six. A wicket obtained by a bowler is just that- a wicket! By trying to term a six as a “DLF Maximum”, or a wicket as a “Citi Moment of Success”, it appears that DLF and Citi have devised sponsorship communications which seek to alter time-tested fundamentals of the game of cricket, or which have the effect of intruding onto an audience’s event experience.

I do believe that if the audiences don’t like a product, the same would be reflected in lower television rating points and lower in-stadia audiences for the event. Furthermore, there would inevitably be a dilution in the brand value of organizations associated with the product. This, in turn, will force the hand of both the IPL and its Sponsors in various ways. Consequently, the participants in the IPL matrix i.e. the IPL, the broadcaster, and its Sponsors may re-negotiate their agreements with each other, so as to specify stricter quality control mechanisms on all aspects of the production of the event, including the manner in which brand communications are tailored. Perhaps, IPL-III may witness the beginning of more mature brand communications from the participants in the IPL matrix, whether by choice or by compulsion.

Here incidentally is the presentation ceremony, notable also for the comments of the two captains:

Part 1:

Part 2:

Anti-terrorism weapon

Memo to Barack Obama: cricket is the new Predator. Tunku Varadarajan advances the argument that the United States would do well to divert at least a fraction of its planned aid to Pakistan for the construction and maintenance of cricket grounds across the country.

As Pakistan fights for its survival against the barbarian Taliban–who would turn that fragile quasi-democracy into an Islamist state so extreme as to obliterate all girls’ schools from the face of the land–its people find themselves possessed of a weapon with which to vanquish the forces of darkness. I speak here not of drones or tanks or helicopter gunships, but of the glorious game of cricket.

I am stating the obvious in saying that the cricket win is a monumental boost to a nation drained of all morale. Besides, my broader point is about much more than morale. Cricket offers an alternative vision of civilization with which Pakistanis can contrast the viciously bleak program of the Taliban.

The Pakistani team has just beaten the world at something the Taliban would swiftly extinguish. How could cricket survive in a society where boys are not so much immersed as “waterboarded” in the Koran from a tender age; where pleasure is taboo unless it is derived from prayer (and even then one dare not call it pleasure); where music is banned, beards compulsory, cinema anathema, women caged away–where even the flying of kites is a punishable offense. What hope is there for cricket in a land where paper kites are ripped from the sky?

The Islamists in Pakistan fear cricket, or else they would not have attacked the visiting Sri Lankan cricket team earlier this year– as a result of which all cricket tours to Pakistan have stopped. The Islamists fear cricket not as a game, but for the fact that it represents values that stiffen the secular resolve of Pakistanis. Pakistan’s culture and history is not merely Islamic: The country has a massive British, and British Indian, legacy, which no amount of revisionism by mullahs and politicians has been able to stamp out entirely. Cricket is living proof of that, and so its presence in Pakistan is a daily reminder to the Islamists that the country has a core that they have yet to touch. And in winning the cricket World Cup, Pakistan’s cricketers have just rendered that core even more inaccessible to the Islamists.

Lanka’s leader

Contemporary cricket has thrown up a lot of interesting leaders [none of whom are British or Australian]: there’s the laid-back cool of Chris Gayle, the more understated version showcased by MS Dhoni, the always frank and occasionally risible sallies of Younus Khan and the all-round statesmanship of Kumar Sangakkara.

Alex Brown celebrates the last-named.

Kumar Sangakkara

Kumar Sangakkara returns to Lanka post-Lahore

Since arriving in England three weeks ago, Sangakkara has taken it upon himself to serve as the team’s unofficial Lahore spokesperson, sparing team-mates the angst-ridden task of regaling the media with recollections of the March terror attack, all the while risking reopening his own barely-healed emotional wounds. It has been a job that required the tact of a politician, the valour of a general, the sensitivity of a counsellor and the patience of a saint. On all counts, Sangakkara passed with distinction.


After the winning runs ricocheted off Afridi’s pads, Sangakkara summoned his players to the centre and embraced them all. Few outside the Sri Lankan dressing room can appreciate the emotion, resilience and spells of trepidation experienced by the team throughout this first international assignment post-Lahore, and Sangakkara’s paternal pride was evident for all to see.

Ever the patriot, Sangakkara swelled the chests of a war-weary nation when, as part of the internationally telecast presentation ceremony, he thanked the Sri Lankan people in a speech delivered in Sinhalese. To hundreds of millions around the world, the oration was indecipherable. To 20 million Sri Lankans, it was inspirational – a private message delivered on cricket’s grandest stage for their ears only.

And, so, Sangakkara – warrior, statesman – left the stage to be received by a galvanised team, an appreciative nation and a reverent cricketing world. Leaders might spend entire careers in pursuit of such universal appeal, and yet Sangakkara has managed it just three weeks as Sri Lankan captain. His team, one feels, are in good hands.

Rapes in potage

Take rapus and make he clean and waifsh he clene. quare hem. pboile he. take hem up. caft hem in a gode broth and feep he. mynce oynons and caft pe to.

If this is the kind of food Richard II served his guests, it is little wonder he was deposed at age 32, and ended up starving [or being starved] to death a year later.

The story of an ancient cookbook here, and the cookbook in its entirety here.

Pakistan V2

That Pakistan won the T20 World Cup was not the oddity, says Sambit Bal — what was odd in a good sort of way was the way victory was accomplished.

Resolute. Restrained. Mature. Measured. Not in the most bizarre of your dreams would you associate these words with Afridi. But those very words summed up his performance today. He wanted the responsibility, he grabbed it and fulfilled it. And his approach to the game was a microcosm of how Pakistani played the final.
It was a clinical, thought-out and utterly professional display. Very un-Pakistani. Yorkers didn’t thud into pads or uproot stumps; there were no magic moments from the spinners, either; and the ball didn’t fly over the ropes.

Resolute. Restrained. Mature. Measured. Not in the most bizarre of your dreams would you associate these words with Afridi. But those very words summed up his performance today. He wanted the responsibility, he grabbed it and fulfilled it. And his approach to the game was a microcosm of how Pakistani played the final.

It was a clinical, thought-out and utterly professional display. Very un-Pakistani. Yorkers didn’t thud into pads or uproot stumps; there were no magic moments from the spinners, either; and the ball didn’t fly over the ropes.

What works for Pakistan is the unscripted electricity it brings to cricket fields — you never know till it has come and gone just what havoc it will cause, if any. Who writes these scripts, asks Kamran Abbasi.

Younis Khan followed in the footsteps of his hero Imran Khan and lifted a World Cup for Pakistan. Each intervening year has made this victory sweeter. Younis also followed his hero in two other ways. First, he managed to pull together a disjointed Pakistan team into a world beating unit. Second, he announced his retirement–but only from Twenty20 cricket.

He may as well. How can you beat the drama of this moment? The past years of desperation in Pakistan; isolation in international cricket. No cricket ground you can call home. A nomadic life with sporadic international cricket.

At the end Younis Khan dedicated the victory to Bob Woolmer, his mentor, and to the long-suffering people of his homeland. Whoever scripted this is a genius.

Dileep Premachandran finds in the win a fairy story retold. It is Cinderella with a twist; it is the ugly sister who wakes to find a glass slipper on her foot and a prince on his knees.

This is no Cinderella story. This is about the ugly sister who woke up to find that she had a glass slipper on her feet. Remember that this is the team that has no home series to look forward to in the foreseeable future, the country that had the ICC Champions Trophy taken away from it and given to South Africa. These are the players who were prevented from playing in the IPL, and the same side that was annihilated by South Africa and India in warm-up matches. But less than three weeks on, they are champions of the world. Their fans, who have had to put up with so much over the past few years and whose support has been so steadfast and magnificent, deserve this perhaps more than the players do. This was their moment, one that they won’t ever forget.


And like the Danes, Pakistan’s support has illuminated this competition. Some might have found the horn-blaring celebrations at Trent Bridge a little foreign, but it’s exactly that sort of passion that has kept the game going in Pakistan despite all the trials and tribulations. Lunatics that target even sportsmen may be holding parts of the country to ransom, but the spirit of 1992 was in ample evidence at Lord’s today. In times of trouble, the inheritors of the Kardar-Fazal-Imran legacy invariably find a way, and while the world may not yet heed Younis’s impassioned plea to go and play there, it’s once again been reminded that you ignore Pakistan cricket at your peril.

In the Times, Simon Wilde Barnes says the outbreak of triviality amidst the life and death concerns of Sri Lanka and Pakistan is an occasion for celebration.

But it’s not the army, and it’s not the politicians. Your national cricket team are engaged in something utterly trivial and to have the opportunity to be concerned about a triviality is as deep a luxury as can be found when you have grown accustomed to dealing with matters of life and death. A chance to concern yourself with yorkers and scoop-shots, the doosra and the teesra – all of them performed in your name – is a glorious if brief holiday from care: a promise that a time will come when triviality can be restored to its rightful place, high on the agenda of human concerns.

In one of the lines most quoted on the back pages of newspapers with interests beyond transfer gossip, George Orwell said that sport is “war minus the shooting”. But war minus shooting is no longer war. War can only exist with shooting. War minus shooting equals not-war. And not-war is not all that far from peace.

Sport can exist only at those times when we can indulge in the luxury of triviality: the Olympic Games were not held in the years between 1936 and 1948 because the world had other things than triviality on its mind.

Of course, a bit of sport between Sri Lanka and Pakistan doesn’t make everything all right. It’s no consolation. It’s no comfort. But it’s a refreshing outbreak of triviality and, as such, it is something for us all to cheer. Sport exists as a kind of cod war, and, as such, it can’t help but be an act of peace.

The takeaway from the Pakistan win, says David Hopps on his blog in The Guardian, is that terrorists do not have the arsenal to crush the spirit of Pakistan cricket.

Putting national sentiments aside, Pakistan’s victory in World Twenty20 was the most joyous outcome imaginable in a tournament replete with happy, vibrant, adventurous cricket, a statement that the sport is so imprinted upon Pakistan’s national consciousness that even the awful prospect of a nomadic existence for several years to come, playing Twenty20 in temporary homes around the world, will not break them.

To term Pakistan cricket indomitable is not to deny its essentially unstable nature. It is unconquerable only in its passion for the game, but the flames of that passion burn fiercely, bringing delight and recriminations, success and failure. The one constant factor is the fervour.

Militant organizations such as Lashkar-e-Taiba, translated as “Army of The Righteous” find such fervour hard to stomach. Most famously, five years ago, as cricket encouraged good relations between Pakistan and India, the LET magazine Zarb-e-Taiba, condemned “the intoxication of cricket”. It railed: “The sports of a mujahid are archery, horse-riding and swimming. Apart from these sports, every hobby is un-Islamic. The above are not just sports but exercises for jihad. Cricket is an evil and sinful sport.”

Pakistan do imagined sin rather well. They began the tournament as a shambles and ended as champions but nobody should be surprised. The tournament, including warm-up games, lasted three weeks, more than enough time for change, considering that Pakistan cricket can go from shambolic to inspirational in the twinkle of an eye.

This tendency, without lapsing excessively into national stereotypes, is true of Pakistani cricket of all standards. Emotions run high; spirits soar and sink on a result of a single ball. A single victory, however shakily achieved, is given the status of a major conquest; defeat can bring anger, recrimination and shame. Entire teams can resign en bloc on a trifle. Alliances can be as permanent as passing clouds.

And to round off this round up, the anthem that reverberated across Lord’s last evening: