From the desk of the acclaimed Hindu statesman

Resignation of India’s cricket coach Kirsten demanded by Hindus for sex encouragement

Hindus have demanded immediate resignation of India’s cricket coach Gary Kirsten for attacking the moral fiber of the country by reportedly encouraging sex indulgence among the nation’s cricket players in a dossier, claiming it increased performance.

Acclaimed Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada (USA) today, said that India’s youth looked up to the cricket players as kind of role models. If the national cricket team indulged in undisciplined casual sex, it was a scary thought to imagine what the rest of the youth of the country would do.

Moreover, in Hinduism, women were revered. Kirsten appeared to be indirectly hinting the team and resultantly others to use women as a kind of gym equipment to become fit as a pre-match preparation strategy to win the match, which was unacceptable, Zed, who is president of Universal Society of Hinduism, argued.

Rajan Zed further said that ancient Upanishads considered sex as sacred and sexual desire only partly physical. It was envisioned as a spiritual force—high octane, creative, and pure energy. Continence was the transformation. Hindu ethics taught us restraint, physical discipline, self-control, abstinence from sensuality, and purity. Continence was one of the recognized virtues in Upanishads; Patanjali also listed it as a virtue around second century BCE; and various Hindu texts described it as one of the six-accomplishments (shatsampat).

Zed urged other religious leaders of India also to express their opinions on this internationally important issue.

Offered up without comment.

PS: Judging by the responses, I guess I need to say this: I didn’t make one word of that up; it comes to you in the exact same shape and form it landed in my mailbox, straight from the Arizona habitat of the acclaimed spokesman.

Eye Browse

1. Umberto Eco’s piece in the Guardian about the importance of good handwriting struck a nerve. I used to pride myself on my neat, even writing. Now, I have a collection of fine writing instruments [one of my obsessions], and a handwriting that deteriorates into the realm of the illegible after about two sentences. From Eco:

The crisis began with the advent of the ballpoint pen. Early ballpoints were also very messy and if, immediately after writing, you ran your finger over the last few words, a smudge inevitably appeared. And people no longer felt much interest in writing well, since handwriting, when produced with a ballpoint, even a clean one, no longer had soul, style or personality.

And while on that, a recent study indicates that handwriting is the best lie-detector test there is.

2. Social media familiarity breeds contempt, seems to be the moral of this Times Online story on Stephen Fry.

3. “When the pet develops rabies and starts biting its own mentors, it must be put to sleep, no way around it,” a senior general involved in military operations in the North-West Frontier Province told me in late April, suggesting a definite new realization — if not change of heart altogether — that as far as the military establishment was concerned, the militants had gone too far. Until that point, the Army’s claims that it was doing its best to hunt down “miscreants” were met with skepticism across the board.

That clip is from a Foreign Policy article suggesting that Pakistan is making more progress in its war against terrorism than an increasingly cynical world is prepared to acknowledge. It ends however on a prophesy designed to further fuel the cynical view that most of Pakistan’s ‘successes’ are calculated pitches for its fund-raising drive:

And we should not be surprised if, as a result of Muslim Khan’s interrogations, his mentor Maulvi Fazlullah also gets captured — perhaps timed to coincide with President Asif Ali Zardari’s trip to New York to host a “Friends of Democratic Pakistan” summit on Sept. 24, at which he is expected to urge the world to better compensate Pakistan for its efforts against extremists, who under the tutelage of al Qaeda still pose a grave threat to the entire region. But perhaps now it’s time the international community shows it is willing to reward success.

4. I can never get enough of writers talking of writing [the NYT series is a favorite, often visited/re-visited resource]. Here, for those interested in such, is today’s find.

5. A blog post gives six reasons for politicians to take to Twitter. Clip:

Now what you can do with Twitter – Dr Shashi Tharoor on his visit to his constituency met with a girl who has lost both her legs and on the same day he tweeted –

Visited a girl who lost both legs to a train when crossing the track bcoz road to her home was underwater. One more tragedy of underdevpmnt”

“Will look for prosthetic help for the girl. In her final year of high school. Desperately poor. A couple of Jaipur Feet cld change her life

That 280 letters changed the life of that girl. The same day itself offers for help came from all over the world and last I heard that girl is undergoing treatment. Could such quick response possible without Twitter? What does that show? Doesn’t that show that politicians and elected representatives can use twitter to spread the word faster than any other media out there?

Indeed. The catch? How many politicians are articulate enough to use that tool to get the right message across?

6. In The Atlantic, Mark Bowden has a great piece outlining, against the backdrop of TV coverage of the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court, how journalism has been ‘outsourced’ to political hit men, business interest groups and such.

This process—political activists supplying material for TV news broadcasts—is not new, of course. It has largely replaced the work of on-the-scene reporters during political campaigns, which have become, in a sense, perpetual. The once-quadrennial clashes between parties over the White House are now simply the way our national business is conducted. In our exhausting 24/7 news cycle, demand for timely information and analysis is greater than ever. With journalists being laid off in droves, savvy political operatives have stepped eagerly into the breach. What’s most troubling is not that TV-news producers mistake their work for journalism, which is bad enough, but that young people drawn to journalism increasingly see no distinction between disinterested reporting and hit-jobbery. The very smart and capable young men (more on them in a moment) who actually dug up and initially posted the Sotomayor clips both originally described themselves to me as part-time, or aspiring, journalists.

Then again, who needs journalists? As this piece in Columbia Journalism Review underscores, the new business model is to spend a lot of money on a telegenic talking head, and let the news gathering end of the business go whistle. While on the media, Nikhil Pahwa linked on Twitter to this spiderweb of inter-connectivity between politicians and journalists in India. Open link with caution — guaranteed to change the way you read newspapers/watch television. :-)

7. From TED via Mental Floss: Oliver Sacks in prime form on the subject of hallucination.

8. Transparency International has just released its annual report on Global Corruption. To no one’s surprise, India wins high placement.

9. Sometimes, all it takes to provoke a really stirring debate is a really badly written opinion piece. This qualifies. The writer sets out to trash contemporary Indian writing in English on the basis of book titles and blurbs; the resultant debate, now two weeks long and counting, is proving to be the gift that goes on giving. Wade right in — the last word hadn’t been said yet.

10. What happens when one of the most famous opening sentences in literature is rendered in Emoji? This:

Moby Dick is passe. Here's Emojidick

Moby Dick is passe. Here's Emojidick

The New Yorker, on the project. Seems to me we’re coming full circle — from symbol-based communication to alphabets, and now back again.

11. Having observed two of the four UN General Assembly sessions [as much of each as I could stomach] out of the five during my tenure in NY, I found them incredibly boring affairs. But then, they never had Muammar Gaddafi, spelt any one of 50 ways,  over during that time. My loss. Your gain.

Over and, for the day, out.

Cricket clips

1. It’s all in the mind’s eye, says Aakash Chopra in the latest installment of his series on cricket from the pov of a player.

2. Peter Roebuck suggests that cricket, like every other sport, needs its majors to sustain audience interest — and if the Champions’ Trophy hasn’t filled that need, it is largely due to the disrespect shown by Australia and England. Tripling the points to be made by winning games at the CT and World Cup level is one interesting suggestion. I’d add one other: limit the field to the six top teams; eight clearly doesn’t fit Roebuck’s prescription of thrilling encounters and no dud games.

3. So the BCCI has realized that it cannot arbitrarily terminate existing contracts, and wisely come to a face-saving accommodation with the IMG [On his Twitter stream, Lalit Modi says the agreement is for the next eight years]. Per the revision, the IMG will be paid Rs 27 crore for its annual services for conducting the IPL, as against the IMG’ demand for Rs 33 crore. Lalit Modi on Twitter says the agreement with IMG is for the next eight years. The six crore downward revision satisfies the associations, which hope to get a slice of the money thus saved — what it leaves unresolved is the larger power struggle pitting Lalit Modi against N Srinivasan. Wait for the next manifestation, like boils on an ailing body. [Earlier IMG-related posts here, here, and here.]

4. An outstanding second part to the Younis Khan interview by Osman Samiuddin. On ODI reform:

We have already changed cricket so much, with Twenty20, super sixes in ODI tournaments, Powerplays in ODIs. If we make so many changes then will it stay the same game? It’s very easy now in a sense. You can decide and pick whether you want to play ODI, Test or Twenty20 cricket. You can get satisfaction from each format, so why the need to change so much?

Some changes, like umpiring referrals, they make sense. That works across the board, and is a good thing. But if you break up an ODI match into four innings, into little pieces, then you are changing the whole thing, it isn’t cricket anymore. It’s like playing American football or something, where you are taking time-outs and some such.

I think we need to promote Test cricket in its own sense, ODI in its own sense and Twenty20 in its own sense. You cannot try and make Tests like Twenty20s or ODIs like Tests. They are separate formats. Promote them equally and separately and appreciate them.

And on the downside of T20s:

In this sense, when I see youngsters today, whoever is preparing, they don’t ever say, “I am about to go and run five laps of the ground, or go for half an hour to the gym.” They say, “We only have to play a three-hour Twenty20 match; we only have to hit shots in that.” Every youngster is thinking this right now: it’s only a three-hour match, so you don’t need to train so much. You just need to hit the ball hard, win a match and take winnings. This is like life – everyone is going for the shortcut. But the shortcut will not always work in life; sometimes you need to work hard for things.

5. Incoming WICB chief Ernest Hilaire says the trick to arresting the meltdown of West Indies cricket lies in learning to work with the players’ association. Nice — but the proof of the pudding, etc. Every new boss WICB has had in recent times has kicked off with the suggestion that the board and the WIPA need to learn to co-exist; thus far, none of them has managed to walk that talk, so for now everything is in wait and watch mode. The first real indication of whether Hilaire can reverse the trend will come when the Windies team to tour Australia is announced; it will be full strength, promises the incoming chief, and that should delight Ricky Ponting, who has been expressing concern at the prospect of facing a scratch XI Down Under.

The League of Ordinary Gentlemen

During a recent conversation, Harsha Bhogle had argued the case for reworking the structure of domestic cricket in India. Shifting to a franchise-driven model would, he argued, bring in more revenues, improve the quality of the game, and enhance competitiveness.

The problem with such suggestions is, where do you start? You can clearly see the Utopian ideal, but you can see with equal clarity that there is no way out of the vicious cycle the game is trapped in. The only ones who can bring about the change are the associations — and they are also the ones who stand to lose everything if change happens, and thus have a deeply vested interest in maintaining the status quo ante.

Some revolutions begin with a blood and thunder storming of the Bastille, but more often, radical change has small beginnings, Harsha suggested later, once the interview proper was over and we were chatting of this and that.

He might have a point, judging by the story of the Karnataka Premier League.

For starters, it avoids the mistake the ICL made and stakes out territory the heavy hitters have no interest in. To wit, state-level domestic cricket which, in terms of interest, ranks even lower than the Ranji and other national competitions.

The teams are paid for and operated by private franchises who are prepared, for a variety of reasons, to pay to promote the sport — thus fulfilling one of the key points of Harsha’s argument.

The league provides a crisp, focused competition; it creates a platform — and generates additional employment — for talent that would otherwise have gone unnoticed; it generates spectator interest within the defined geography [8000 people for one of the games? You don't get that for a Ranji final].

The most interesting aspect, for me, is that the KPL is an example of how public-private partnerships can work to the benefit of both — the IPL model, scaled down to the grassroots. While on this, I was somewhat surprised by Anil Kumble’s reaction to the development:

The decision to go with the franchise system drew some flak, notably from Kumble and Srinath, who both wondered why the KSCA needed external financial support to run the league when it receives a grant from the BCCI. Kumble was typically blunt: “In its current form, it would allow a backdoor entry into the KSCA for people not passionate about cricket,” he said.

Anil has one of the most balanced voices in Indian cricket, hence my surprise at his unstated subtext: that ‘passion for cricket’ is exclusive to those who are part of the administration.

While the lack of infrastructure in the districts remains a problem, the KSCA realises the need to move more of the tournament outside Bangalore, which hosted all but six of the 31 games this season. “We are planning to go, from the next edition onwards, to other locations in Karnataka,” Srikantadatta Wadiyar, a descendant of the Mysore royal family and current KSCA president, says. “The idea is to ultimately take it to the respective locations and zones [of the franchises].”

The problem and solution are closely interlinked. There is no infrastructure in the districts because they don’t get sufficient quality cricket to require the expenditure; take cricket into the hinterlands, and the infrastructure will follow. Additionally:

The franchises are also looking ahead to the next season. Mangalore has announced its plans to start an academy to spot and groom talent. Belgaum is looking at providing equipment and forming teams within its catchment area, and holding intra-zone tournaments. “We are committed to four tournaments a year in Belgaum,” Hoover says. “We will club some areas together and make a team; we plan to have five or six such teams, who will then face off against each other.”

This is the other point that Harsha mentioned — and one that directly refutes Anil’s contention. The KSCA gets grants from the BCCI and hence has no real interest in developing talent. Private franchises, which put money where the association’s mouth is, are however aware that the players are its stock in trade, and thus tend to be more proactive.

The biggest plus of the KPL is that it provides a model — of partnership between franchises, the official association, and the local media — that can be transplanted to other regions. Do that, and you have created a platform to discover and hone fresh talent, re-ignited spectator interest at the domestic level, provided additional employment opportunities to a whole host of players currently on the outside of the money trough looking in, and created a feeder system for the IPL.

What’s not to like?

Addendum: Okay, Srikanth answers that question in the comments field:

I agree the concept of KPL is worth it… I, being a Kannadiga, was eager to see the talent from remote places of Karnataka to take part in KPL. Only then we may get raw talent with unique approach to the game.

However, there was a glitch in this edition of KPL, there were 8 franchises and each squad was filled with students from ex-cricketers’ academies… The local talents (from Belagaum, Mangalore, Davangere etc) were limited to 2 to 4 per squad and those guys hardly got a chance to be a part of playing 11.

I hope to see this issue not getting repeated next edition of KPL, as KPL would be held across various venues in Karnataka from next season.

Right, that’s an unnecessary glitch that hopefully will get sorted out in edition two.

In passing, the franchise structure will work to optimum if each franchise takes responsibility for developing its own talent bank. An interesting option could be tie-ups with various cricket academies — with, of course, the provision that selection be based on merit, not on ‘influence’.