War, or something like it

Thanks to a reader commenting on one of the earlier posts, I just stumbled on the wtf line to end all wtf lines. From Pradeep Magazine, on the IPL ‘fiasco’:

What the Mumbai terror attacks could not achieve — an Indo-Pak war — this fresh row could well do that.

I wonder how we managed to escape going to war last year — when this happened:

Pakistan barred its cricketers on Monday from travelling to India and playing in the Indian Premier League tournament. The decision has been taken because of security concerns.

Five Pakistani cricketers —Yasir Hameed, Yasir Arafat, Asim Kamal, Danish Kaneria and Mohammad Hafeez — were to attend the IPL auction of players for the second season in Goa on Feb 10.

The government has earlier stopped hockey and squash teams from going to India for the same reason.

Will the noise-makers on both sides explain why it was okay for the PCB to ban Pakistan players from participation last year [a decision taken and announced just a week ahead of the auctions]?

Over the past week, everyone and his uncle has been going on about the ‘snub’, and how it has vitiated the atmosphere. The best response to that?:

“These are the harsh realities of life.”

The speaker is Saleem Altaf, the PCB’s CEO. Exactly — so enough already.

I don’t mean to go banging on about this — but each time I raise my head and glance at the TV screen, or check the net to see what’s new, there is some other bloke beating his breast over the whole thing, and quite frankly it has gone beyond being amusing.

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Fear factor

I so totally love Rakhi Sawant. Here’s the latest example for why:

“Fearlessly I’ve sent a legal notice to the censor board. This is the first time something like this has happened. Others do chamchagiri of the censor board. Not me. I’m Rakhi Sawant. Main ishwar ki beti hoon (I’m god’s daughter).”

You go, girlfriend.

SRK for foreign minister

So hey, CNN/IBN is ecstatic.

Largely through the channel’s fearless reporting [at least that is the impression the tone and tenor of the coverage conveys], aided by Shah Rukh Khan’s equally fearless ‘speaking out’ in a series of non-sequiturs, India has narrowly avoided a potential catastrophe of cataclysmic proportions.

In other words, Abdul Razzak will likely play in IPL-III.  Or, more accurately, the Deccan Chargers Kolkatta Knight Riders have expressed interest; Razzaq is interested in this interest, and all concerned are waiting for ‘clearance’ from the IPL, whatever that means [I thought the IPL had said there is no institutional ban on Pakistan players? So why then does Razzaq/KKR require clearance from on high?] A tangential note for Razzaq: dude, when you do come over, make sure you get your payment up front. Shoaib Akthar can tell you why.

But never mind the IPL’s inability to speak with one voice – larger fish are being fried. Wazir-e-Azam Syed Yousef Raza Gilani tells Barkha Dutt that it is now time for India and Pakistan to move beyond the IPL – a statement that clearly marks a breakthrough in bilateral relations.

Seriously, are we losing all sense of perspective here? In the original instance, the franchises took a practical call that having Pakistani players in their sides could lead to potential problems [no, not law and order problems so much; the problems relate more to guaranteed availability]. That got transformed into some kind of bilateral face-off, fit to rank with Kargil, and the confrontation along the LoC in the wake of the attack on Parliament, in order of importance.

Now KKR, caught up in the hype of its owner [within the space of 24 hours, SRK has said that it is sad Pakistan players are not playing, but has also said a climate needs to be created for Pakistan players to play — the second statement assumes such a climate does not currently exist, so why is he sad, again?] is trying to get one particular player to play in IPL-3 — and that is at best grist for school quiz masters on some future date, but not a ‘breakthrough’ in relations between the two countries. So please could we cease and desist?

In passing, here’s a Dawn think piece on the whole IPL fiasco:

The Pakistani players ignored at the auction were justified in feeling humiliated because they were obviously not judged on merit. A quiet withdrawal should have been a proper option — in the case of Pakistan’s official and non-official meddlers too. Instead they were keen to turn the slight caused to some commercial-minded players into a matter of national disgrace.

The retaliatory measures announced by them — cancellation of the visit to India by parliamentarians and the election commissioner and calls to boycott all sports events scheduled to be held in India — made little sense. All such decisions normally advance a demand till the fulfillment of which the protest is supposed to continue. What do the angry Pakistanis want IPL or India to do to satisfy their bruised ego? They cannot be unaware of the fact that the disruption of sports ties with India, or ties in any other area, cannot be sustained forever. The Indians, too, are learning this all over again.

Fear of success

Much is written about the paralysis induced by the fear of failing. Today’s events underline the other, greater fear — the debilitating fear of success.

More than once in this series, Bangladesh has looked to compete with India on an even footing.  — the home team’s second innings being the perfect example. At 290 for three, Bangladesh seemed to be coasting on the wings of Tamim Iqbal’s fireworks display aided and abetted by Junaid Siddiqui and nightwatchman turned thorn in the flesh Shahadat Hussain.

It is debatable whether Bangladesh could have parlayed that into a winning position — but with a little bit of application, the home side could have seriously embarrassed the visitors. And then, just as the game neared the tipping point, Bangladesh lost the plot — spectacularly and completely. Complacency, is Shakib’s diagnosis; fear of success is mine.

There was a time when India suffered from this syndrome. It would, especially when traveling, play itself into a position of strength — and then, having gotten a grip on the game, its engines would overheat, and bring the side crashing down. Bangladesh is now in that position, and that actually qualifies as an improvement — from being the easy-beats of the long form, the side is gradually reaching that point where it can stymie even top teams, for prolonged periods in each game. That transition largely owes to Jamie Siddons, who took over the coaching role in late 2007; his job now is to push his wards that extra step, and teach them how to translate their talents and energies into a winning effort [the role John Wright played with the Indians in the late 1990s, for instance].

Elsewhere, South Africa is going through one of its periodic epiphanies — the result, seemingly, of a coach and selection committee intent on picking players on merit, and of a board that wants to use cricket at least in part to correct historical wrongs. In an otherwise quiet cricket world, some reading matter: Aakash Chopra continues his insider column with a note on the Holy Grail of the professional sportsman: form.

The dictionary explains “form” in different ways, but for cricketers it’s a state of uncluttered mind: when everything falls in place and you don’t have to worry about where the next run or the next wicket will come from. When in form, it happens by itself. When in form, your focus is on the next ball, not on the one that just went past your bat. You find gaps when in form, fielders when out of it.

On a personal note, have over the past few days of inactivity gotten a few dozen mails from readers asking (a) whether I intend to resume regular blogging and (b) whether my blogging will be restricted to cricket.

Yes. No. There you go.

I’m currently struggling with way too much on my plate — both professionally, where I am busy trying to understand the intricate architecture of Yahoo’s global operations and where and how I slot into it, and personally, where thanks to a lot of traveling I haven’t yet found the leisure to settle my home down. Regular blogging resumes once at least one of these two things are accomplished; when it does, it will not be restricted to cricket [in fact, I suspect I’ll shift to a regular, probably daily, cricket column on the Yahoo platform, and use this blog to round things off, and focus on non-cricket themes.

So: yes, and no. Give me time. 🙂