Meet the new home minister

Cricinfo reports on a meeting at Matoshree:

Pawar, also president of the Mumbai Cricket Association, was accompanied by current Indian board president Shashank Manohar to Mumbai to meet with Thackeray and his son Uddhav, and the four sat behind closed doors for an estimated two hours. “We presented our viewpoint before Thackeray on this critical issue,” Manohar told reporters. “We tried to convince him that only one or two Australian players will participate in the IPL matches and by not allowing all IPL matches it is the state players [Marathi players] who will lose ultimately.

“We also explained to them the format of the IPL teams and matches and how there were one or two Australian players in each team. Thackeray has asked for a detailed presentation on the issue which we will be providing in couple of days and thereafter he would consider our request.”

How ironic is this? Shashank Manohar hasn’t had to make a similar presentation to the Federal Home Minister to ensure security for his event — but he feels the need to treat an unconstitutional authority — to wit, the head of a regional party whose influence has demonstrably eroded even in its own area of operation — with such deference? And worse, he is accompanied on this mission by a Federal minister, no less, and a colleague of Mr P Chidambaram.

If Pawar, a member of the Federal Cabinet, prefers to deal with those who hold the state to ransom through the threat of violence rather than depend on his own Cabinet colleague and on the home ministry to ensure security within the country, why then should we ordinary citizens trust our security to the government? Maybe all those who are of non-Marathi origin living in Mumbai need to make our own ‘detailed presentation’ to Thackeray, and ask for his protection?

Seriously, just what is it going to take before someone calls the Sena’s bluff?

Move over Ekta Kapoor

A well-informed source tells me that over at the Balaji Telefilms headquarters, they are beginning to worry. Ekta Kapoor is understood to have called her producers and told them in no uncertain terms that they have to immediately come up with ideas to combat the emerging threat to their soap opera dominance from the IPL and the sundry noise-makers associated with it.

You can see her point — with all the drama around in the real world, who needs TV?

A day after welcoming the news that KKR has approached Abdur Razzaq with a view to securing his participation in IPL-3, reading those tea-leaves and finding among the dregs signs that there is a thaw in Indo-Pak relations, and suggesting that maybe the climate is now right for bilateral talks, Pakistan did an abrupt volte face and decided to cancel the NOCs to Pakistan players to take part in the IPL.

Let’s see, now — the PCB seems to be saying that India has no business insulting Pakistan players; any insulting that is required will be done by the PCB itself, thank you very much. [And that is not surprising either — after all, it was the PCB that pointed a match-fixing finger at its own team captain not so long ago].

Meanwhile, the Shiv Sena and its gracelessly aging leader decided to take up cudgels against a sea of troubles. That is to say, against Shah Rukh Khan, with the party’s Thane unit led by its MLA Eknath Shinde ordering a ban on all SRK films until further notice. You can’t blame Shinde, really — the Sena is a monkey-see, monkey-do party, and its loyal ‘leaders’ know nothing better than to blindly jump in whatever direction Mr B Thackeray points his finger.

Khan’s fault, apparently, is that he spoke up for Pakistan players. If the Sena means to say that anyone expressing a personal preference for seeing some of Pakistan’s T20 World Cup-winning stars in action in the IPL is to be banned, then I wonder what the Sena plans to do about Dr Manmohan Singh? Who, while remaining mum about a host of pressing issues ranging from price rise to the growing intel that India is apt to be the target of a major terrorist attack sometime soon, did manage to find time to “signal his displeasure” at the IPL and at Lalit Modi for shutting a “growing window of opportunity”.

Seriously, Dr Singh — what window of opportunity was that? Is it your contention, and that of your mouthpiece, that if the IPL had allowed a half dozen Pakistan players to feather their personal nests by turning out for sundry franchises, Indo-Pak relations would have improved to the point where Islamabad would have immediately handed over those it now acknowledges as having had a role in 26/11 to India for punishment, shut down all terrorist camps, thrown every member of the LeT into prison for life, and abjured the use of terrorism as state policy for ever?

Or maybe you were not so ambitious — you only wanted to create a conducive climate for talks? But then, isn’t it you, and your government, that has been consistently saying there can be no talks with Pakistan without Islamabad acting and being seen to act to end terrorism?

So again — could you throw your tame mouthpiece please explain what “window of opportunity” got shuttered by the IPL?

Back to the Shiv Sena: So now that the Federal Home Minister has, at the behest of the Prime Minister of this country, expressed a desire to see Pakistan players in action on Indian soil, what are you going to do?

Do you have the courage of your stated convictions, and the cojones, to threaten the Home Minister and the Prime Minister with “dire consequences” for their words? Do you have what it takes to publicly suggest that Mr P Chidambaram and Mr Manmohan Singh [not to forget the Federal Sports Minister, who also expressed similar sentiments] will not be allowed to set foot in Maharashtra? Or is your soap-operatic rage so small in scale that it can only be used against small, soft targets — a film star here, a movie theatre there?

Could it be that you are, as your friendly enemy Mr Sharad Pawar once told me in an interview, a coward after all?

PostScript: Irrelevant to the above, but interesting: Aakash Chopra talks of the futility of having premier games in the domestic circuit played out on dead tracks.

The recently concluded semi-final between North and West Zone vindicated my point of curtailing the maximum number of overs at a team’s disposal for the knock-out matches. It was, as usual, a batting paradise in Rajkot and both teams knew that the toss might just decide the fate of the match. And boy it did…that too with style.

West scored nearly 800 runs, perhaps the highest in the season, and batted North out of the game. Yes, North could have fought harder and got closer to the total but overhauling it was a forgone conclusion. But what followed after West got a mammoth 465-run lead devalues the importance of a first-class century. West opted for some batting practice instead of going for an outright win which was perhaps there for the taking. But since a first-innings lead was enough to see them through to the finals, they can’t be blamed for not forcing the issue.

See you Monday.