It’s official: the Shiv Sena has lost it

Not so long ago, Shiv Sena activists egged on by their supreme leader and the party mouthpiece were urging Shah Rukh Khan to go to Pakistan, after the actor supported the participation of Pakistani players in the IPL.

It is a different matter that the odor of opportunism pervaded the whole affair. Shah Rukh, whose franchise had along with the others refrained from picking up any Pakistani players in the latest round of auctions, got considerable face time on national television thanks to his pronouncement, and managed on each occasion to bring up his about to be released film. And the Sena — which operates on the belief that even bad publicity is better than oblivion — managed to grab a few headlines, before the issue got defused.

In a measure of how irrelevant the Sena increasingly believes itself to be, it has now latched on to another promising bandwagon for a few more headlines. And this time the comments emanating from the party are mind-bogglingly WTF:

Sena objects to Sania’s marriage, says in its mouth piece, Saamna that she should marry an Indian in order to retain nationality & represent India.

“After marriage she will be going to her in-laws, how will she then play for India? It’s being irreverent to this country and its laws” said Sena.

“After marriage Sania will become a Pakistani citizen. How can she have Pakistani citizenship and play for India? Has this country become a tennis ball to Sania that she plays with it however she pleases?,” said Sena.

Sena further said that in any case chief of Pakistan Tennis Federation Dilawar Abbas has welcomed you (Sania). He has already expressed his desire to see you play for Pakistan, but if you are so keen to play for India, you ought to have chosen an Indian instead of a Pakistani as your life partner.

“Morally she (Sania) has no right to get into this wedlock in the cost or expense of another individual. On one hand, Sania Mirza stands for ‘Save the Girl Child’ campaign and on the another hand she is showing absolutely no respect, no care , no attitude for another girl, women or lady of this country” said Shiv Sena legal head Rahul Narvekar.

“Is Sania Mirza’s achievement in isolation of the nation? If nation has supported her , it is her duty to have sentiments, values and emotions for the people of this country” added Narvekar.

On Twitter, many have mocked the party for its double-speak, pointing out that it cannot in one breath continue to claim that Sonia Gandhi, despite marrying an Indian and accepting Indian citizenship, is an Italian, while also claiming that Sania loses her right to represent India just because she has married a Pakistani.

Logical argument, that — but when, in recent times, has logic permeated anything the Sena has said, and done?

Sense, sensibility, and Sania Mirza

A friend, Mehul Shah, sent me this note in mail just now:

Sania Mirza is probably the saddest story in Indian sports these days. What seemed to be the start to a very promising career in 2005 has turned out to be a forgettable journey so far. I have been following her on Twitter for 3 months but hardly any tweet on her tennis or her insights into the world of tennis. I know she is recovering from an injury but sure she has better things to tweet about than the parties she attends and the personal travel she undertakes. The most shocking was a few weeks back: “Tennis is not my hobby, only my profession. Relaxing at home and watching movies is!” Not sure who was last forced to take up sports as a profession, that too in a country like India. Thousands of sports enthusiasts [count me in] would die to have the life/opportunity she got and she is just wasting it. A very good coach I know here in the US simply loves her simple yet powerful groundstokes and even told me once if her serve was as good as her groundies, she could be a top 10 player. I used to admire her for her ability to rise above the barriers that our society poses over minority / women especially for sports, not any more!

Sania Mirza’s Twitter stream.

Of Sania, IPL and other ‘newsmakers’

So the big news, since we last spoke, was Sania Mirza announcing her engagement to Shoaib Malik. An occasion for considerable humor on Twitter streams, with my friend Ramesh Srivats nailing it when he said, “Good thing Shoaib and Sania don’t have to do the saat pheras — she wouldn’t get past the first round”.

Cruel, perhaps — but indicative of how rapidly Sania Mirza has slipped in the public estimation from her glory year, 2005, when she hit her career high ranking of 27 on the back of a dream run at first the Australian Open, when she lost in the third round to Serena Williams, and at the US Open later that year where she was the cynosure, celebrated as much for her fearless tennis as for her feisty attitude and funky T-shirts. Outside of a Grand Slam title in 2009 in tandem with Mahesh Bhupathi at the Australian apart, Sania since that breakout year has made the news more for controversies and recurrent injuries, rather than for her game — so perhaps the cruelty is understandable.

More cricket news from Pakistan: Mohammad Yusuf has announced his retirement “for now” — the caveat clearly indicating that this is more an attempt to prompt a dialog with the powers with a view to an eventual return, than the act of a cricketer who has reached that point where the daily grind no longer appeals. That point occurs to Osman Samiuddin, who starts off his column with this:

Not once in his scripted spiel did Mohammad Yousufactually say anything about quitting international cricket, which, given that the occasion was to officially announce his retirement, seemed a strange way of going about it. Having already told the biggest, most influential Urdu-language paper in Pakistan – essentially the whole country – two days ago that he was going to retire, perhaps he felt he didn’t need to say he was actually retiring at the function organised for that very purpose.

It was only after he finished thanking past captains, players, God, and talking about a PCB letter, that a bemused reporter asked him, just to be sure, “So you are retiring right?”

“Yes, yes,” Yousuf quickly responded. “Yes, this is my retirement. I have retired from international cricket.” The whole affair has about it the permanence of an ice cube in the Sahara.

On the surface, funny. But at a larger level, indicative of the state of affairs in Pakistan cricket, where players are in a state of suspended animation, the administration has been reduced to a joke, and media and commentators laugh that they may not weep.

Busy day, so for now will leave you with some random reading: India Today’s cover story on the IPL; a Mint article on how the tournament is proving to be a great showcase for emerging brands; and Ashok Malik on the economics of it all.

Back in a while — and, of course, live on Yorker between 3.30-4.30. Links etc as always on Twitter — mine and the official Yahoo ID.