Sachs and violence

When Amit introduced Yahoo! Opinions yesterday, he made a point about the sort of columns you get to read in the morning papers:

There are a number of traps inherent in creating such narratives, and most of the opinion columns I see in the daily papers fall into them. They have implacable opinions on whatever they write about; they exude certainty; contributing to a public discourse that is severely polarized, they choose black or white. They construct simple narratives of a complex world — and when the columnist gets lazy, simple can fast become simplistic.

As against that, I love when a columnist takes me by the hand and leads me down an interesting garden path. I may have no inkling of what lies at journey’s end, but the company of the guide is entrancing enough to carry me along — and then, bingo, the unexpected payoff that makes the trip worth while.

Aadisht Khanna [blog here, and here he is on Twitter] debuts in the Yahoo Opinions space, and raises the bar Amit had set a day earlier. Eight more columnists to go before the first cycle is complete — and partiality aside, I get the feeling this is going to be real fun.

Here’s Aadisht, weaving a tale of cupidity and carnal desire, war and big business. Read now.

And while on columns, after a morning spent reading, with consuming irritation, what passes for ‘curtain raisers’ in the newspapers, just read Sharda Ugra’s blog post on the T20 World Cup, and Afghanistan — which debuts on the world stage against India later today. Here’s how Sharda frames the contest:

India arrive at the Beausejour Stadium backed by a nine strong support staff, the biggest money in world cricket, the largest media contingent and a gigantic passionately devoted fan base. They will be up against cricketers who are nicknamed – some even numbered – after them. Opener Karim Sadiq, the Indian Express revealed a few days ago, is called Kabul ka Sehwag (the Sehwag of Kabul) while wicketkeeper Mohammed Shazhad, like MS Dhoni wears the No. 7 shirt. Their left-handed fast bowler is nick named Zak after our own Broody One.

Afghanistan will shake hands with the rock stars of cricket on a field because in the last 18 months the team has shot up from the ICC’s World Cricket League Division Five, earned ODI status and entered the World T20 by logging in wins over the UAE and Ireland.

Once again, men with new names come onto cricket’s biggest stage – Stanikzai, Ahmadzai, Shenwari, Zadran. Pathan names, names of tribes and geographies. Some of this team were born in the sprawling refugee camps in Pakistan, others in places whose datelines usually carry grim news. These are cricketers from Kabul, Khost, Kunduz, Nangrahar, the latter being the scene of a battle in 1989 where a Saudi Mujahideen ‘general’ called Osama bin Laden became famous. Cricket, their coach Kabir Khan says, was the only sport allowed during Taliban rule – because “it had intervals for prayer breaks”.

Think about it. We talk of the chaotic nature of our domestic structure, of how little our board does to find and nurture talent, of the serial idiocies of our selection committee, of a schedule that rapidly reduces genuine fast bowlers into anaemic medium paced trundlers… Imagine, then, the chaos of Afghanistan, and salute a team that learnt its skills, and honed its spirit, in the midst of that madness.

I’m with Sharda on this — when India’s Cup campaign begins today — in about two and a half hours, actually — I’ll be ensconced in the easiest chair in my house, cheering the boys from Kabul on.

I’ll be on Twitter during the game — and back on blog Monday.