INDIA AND PAKISTAN

‘Neighbours, but still tension prevails more than peace; same physiological conditions , still hatred prevails more than love’ - This has been the tale of India - Pakistan relations so far. Each time a new government is crowned in India and each time the power shifts between politicians and the military in Pakistan, the whole globe awaits the decisions of each of these countries about the relations between each other. It is worth mentioning that from Vajpayee to Dr. Singh, nothing of some value has turned up from the High Level talks. All these talks have been more of a custom than any sincere initiative to calm down the region and thereby provide a threshold to progress.

The most evident aspect of the attitude of these nations to each other is the frequency of cricket matches between these countries. In both these nations, cricket is a religion of the majority or even more. Avoiding cricket matches between themselves is a strong move to make the hatred known. It is India, who appears to be more interested in this kind of a move. It is interesting that India has neither hosted nor visited Pakistan after the 2008 incidents except once, which was more a way to restore its pride after a continuum of losses than a move to encourage cooperation. After a long time it was announced a few weeks back that bilateral series between India and Pakistan would be restored next calendar year, the latest happenings brings back a question mark to the statement.

Now, the ascend of Narendra Modi as the Indian  Prime Minister, was believed to trigger more tensions in the border. But,  nothing has gone hot yet! Instead, it was seen that he started meetings and peace talks from the scratch. When things were expected to be as usual, he stepped back from the meetings after the Pakistan High Commissioner met the separatists in Kashmir. Though it was routine, as Pakistan claims, Modi seems to be upset with it and wants it changed. This is the trouble in assessing this relationship- one can  never guess what it would be like the next moment! When everything seems  to be on track , something comes up. From Mumbai terror attack to the latest Pakistan High Commissioner’s meeting with the separatists in Kashmir, all these factors have spoiled it. Peace seems to  hate this part of the world altogether

We have for sure fallen hands down to the trap set by the British to prevent the growth and development of the region. The policy of Divide and Rule was a great success, right from the case of Bengal to that of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. The way they split India into a Hindu nation and a Muslim nation did the trick and India is still developing. No other nation in the world would have matched India’s wealth and now we still striving to be one of the ‘Riches’. We need to break the stereotypes and rise.

Whatever be, the common man continues to believe that sooner or later a positive decision would be made. For Indians, it is that his children would have the right to draw an Indian map with Her head held high and for Pakistanis that terror and blame game on Kashmir would end, irrespective of whether Kashmir is India’s or Pakistan’s. But, still, a solution seems to be very far.

 

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Mission Redemption

When India tours England in June this year for a five test series, the prestigious Pataudi Trophy isn’t the only thing they need to regain.

Ups and downs are part of every sport and cricket is no exception. Great cricket teams of the past have been associated with a certain aura and a feeling of invincibility. Case in point, the West Indies team of the 1970s and the Australian team of the early 2000s. Rankings of today are not the rightful indicators of a team’s performance, yet they make a subtle point. Today, India is ranked 5th among the test playing nations. With a rating of 102, they are ranked below their arch rivals Pakistan, who despite their lack of home advantage, are ranked 4th with a rating of 103.

When India toured England for a four match test series in 2011, they started as the No.1 ranked team with a star studded batting line-up and an okay-ish bowling attack. Six weeks later, their pace spearhead had already pulled out of the series due to a hamstring, their batting was in shambles except for one superhuman gentleman (literally, as he did everything apart from rolling his arm over) called Rahul Dravid and their team morale was utterly shattered and considerably beyond recovery.

For a team which was on the high of a limited overs World Cup victory after 28 years, it was a fall that can be best described using a mathematical graph with a near to vertical slope (although it is undefined, it pretty much stands for this case). Soon after the debacle, the explanations and excuses followed. People listed excessive cricket, player fatigue/ burnout as reasons and some of them even had the atrocity to blame the pitches for assisting excessive swing and seam, a traditional chink in the Indian batting armoury. Yet, for all the hullabaloo that emerged, the bottomline was that India, being the top test ranked team, lost 4-0 to an opposition who was very well prepared and came out all guns blazing. On the other hand, India looked under-prepared, burdened and lost.

So much so that they had to recruit a seam bowler midway through the series, who until a week earlier, was partying on the beaches of Miami. Predictably, R.P.Singh’s first ball after his comeback was a dud, bouncing three times before it reached the batsmen. The delivery was called a dead ball and the stands were filled with laughter, with people wondering if this was a joke.

Throughout the series, India never managed to score more than 300 in eight innings, with only Dravid managing to get to the three figure mark thrice, with a top score of 146. Two of the losses were innings defeats while the other two featured huge losing margins of 196 and 319 runs respectively. Probably the only time when they had England on the mat was in the first innings of the 2nd test, when Ishant Sharma ran through the English top order to reduce them to 88/6. Stuart Broad then played a fighting knock of almost run-a-ball 64 to lift England’s spirits. He came back to claim 6-46 with the ball with an economy of 1.96; a spell that is remembered for sharp, incisive seam bowling. India never really recovered from this onslaught.

Incidentally, this series started a period of steep decline for India in tests, with yet another whitewash against a rampaging Australian side down under and a shock series defeat at home against England. In retrospect, India’s rise to the top of the test rankings was a painstakingly slow process. It took years of toil for stalwarts like Tendulkar, Dravid, Ganguly, Laxman and Kumble to lift India to the top. Yet, the slide to the bottom was pretty swift and shocking rather than surprising.

Three years later, Indian cricket has moved on. The greats have bowed out. The young guns are establishing themselves and the pain of those humiliating defeats is just a memory. Barring MS Dhoni, Gautam Gambhir and Ishant Sharma, none of the other squad members have played Test cricket in England, let alone being a part of that horror series. Yes, the squad does not carry the burden of defeats, but then it is also largely short of experience. Among the batsmen, MS Dhoni and Gautam Gambhir have played 81 and 54 test matches respectively. Ishant Sharma, for all his unfulfilled potential, is the only bowler to have crossed the 50 tests landmark.

Preparations to the tour seem to be on track, with the BCCI resting most of the squad members for India’s tour of Bangladesh. For obvious monetary reasons, it values the IPL participation of its stars more important than an international fixture against Bangladesh. Probably the BCCI is aware of the fatigue factor and deems it necessary to send a mentally fresh squad to the series. While Bangladesh might be crying foul over the lack of interest shown by the Indian board, it at least provides a much needed rest to the players.

From an Indian fan’s perspective, this is an exciting series. An opportunity to redeem the lost glory. With an exciting bunch of players, most notably the batsmen, India has the chance to start its ascendancy to the summit. Make no mistake, this series is not the platform to avenge the humiliation of the past. Sport has no place for revenge sagas. Rather, it is a chance to recover the lost respect and re-establish the faith and pride among the supporters.

To quote Confucius:

Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising every time we fall.

India has not won an overseas test for about three years now. Trent Bridge looks like the perfect place to start.

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RELIGION, CASTE AND POLITICS

After the huge success of the biggest democratic process in the world, India is getting ready to install her latest government. Even Mr. Obama congratulated India for completing the election in a competent manner. But, after it has all resided it is now the time to evaluate ourselves and create the report card of the behaviour of our leaders during the election campaigning. To be very frank, we need to realise that a majority of the candidates were very much below the standards.

If not with the ‘To Be’ Prime Minister candidate, then with whom shall we start? In Varanasi, the techniques he employed went very far from the nation’s habitual standards. We are a Hindu majority nation, but we have always shown the quality to accept different religions and consider them all equal. That is why we could accept the arrival of Mughals and empowering us. We did not worry a lot on foreigners bringing in religions like Judaism, Christianity, etc. with them and establishing their places of worship on our soil. We rooted the formation and growth of religions like Buddhism and Jainism and never obstructed its growth. But all of a sudden the Prime Ministerial candidate in his campaigning requests for votes under the label of being a hindu and because he is from a lower caste. It is really true that with people of Varanasi, campaigning with international issues might not yield the same results it would with people elsewhere. Whatever be, there should be some limitation on the use of religion and caste to gather votes.

This is not the case with our destined PM alone. This has been a common scenario all around the nation. In almost all the constituencies candidates use caste and religion as a tool which often seems to be pitiful. Some constituencies in the country have been earmarked as the fortress of particular castes, where a candidate from some other religion would fail for sure. Even the political parties pay immense care while deploying some candidate in these constituencies. This helps to fulfill the theory the framers of our constitution had in mind while drafting it. It ensures participation of all sects of the society. But doesn’t it carry some negative influence regarding the message we deliver to the generation next about our culture.

Its high time we think about it. It is not a college student from some end of the country who should think and jot down about it. But, it is the so called policy makers who need to frame a policy for themselves about the way they would behave in public. And there is something that all these politicians should realise- that there is a growing generation watching them. But they are not as traditional as the previous generations were. Current youth are ready to air their voice when needed!  

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MANMOHAN SINGH: A CHAINED EAGLE

The 2004 elections saw the sudden rise of an economist into the top most slot of the Indian Government, below the President of India- Dr. Manmohan singh. There is even a tale behind the evolution of Dr. Singh into the Prime Ministerial post. It is said that the Chairperson of UPA,  Sonia Gandhi, phoned him over while Dr. Singh was in a plane journey and asked him if he could lead the UPA government. This tale may or may not be true, but it states that Dr. Singh was not thought of as the PM candidate before the elections. Whatever be, that particular choice of Sonia Gandhi had a lot of significance as much as the nation is considered.

If not for the leadership of Dr. Singh, India would have seen the biggest of the falls during the economic recession of the first decade of this century that reached its peak in 2008. But, even when  US fell steeply, the whole world saw India standing tall and nice. All the important decisions taken by the UPA ministry ensured that India overcome the recession safely. It was nothing but the decisions of Dr. Singh, the seasoned economist, that controlled the impact of the phenomenon on the nation. And, all the more important, when India tackled the recession quite comfortably, it reduced the intensity of the recession. And this helped the cause of recovery even for US, the strongest economy in the world.

From just a growing economy, India was titled to be the third biggest economy in the world, a few days before Dr. Singh handed over his resignation letter to The President. This is not a small achievement, given that no other Prime Minister could make India achieve prosperity as much as Dr. Singh could. It is important to note that Dr. Singh achieved this when the whole world blames the nation for immense growth of population without ensuring the availability of enough resources to sustain this population.

But, it is also a fact that the PM was nothing more than a puppet during his second term at the helm. With corruption charges on Raja, Kanimozhi, SP Tyagi, Suresh Kalmadi,  VK Singh and so on disrupted the harmony that Dr. Singh had developed during his first term. Even though Dr. Singh is accepted all around as a real pandit, he had little say in all these as a negative response could have forced his resignation. Heading a coalition, he sure had to ensure that he did not respond strictly to all these and maintained silence in public. With very little public address during the second term, he was painting his own image as a puppet.

DR. Singh, who realised that 2014 elections would either result in a huge majority for the NDA or a coalition again, took the best possible decision to declare that he would step down whatever the results of the election may be. He did not want to become a puppet again. This reveals the pressure he had borne the past few years. He could not resign, as he had to uphold the confidence of Smt. Gandhi. He could not allow corruption to go on either because he would then be treated as a PM voted out by the parliament. The only choice he had was to keep silent until his term came to an end, which is exactly what he did.

One thing is for sure, India never had the luck to use Dr. Singh to his full potential, which would have simply made India the strongest and the recession resistant economy in the world. Not realising the potential of this man, which was of course painted black by the opposition, the Indian population voted him out of power and brought in Narendra Modi. The ability of Narendra Modi at the helm can be only rated as time passes by. But, Dr. Singh proved what he is capable of, even within all the limitations he had.

And for one last line, Dr. Sing deserved more applause and laurel and so far, there has been no other man who could outrun him at the Prime Minister’s Office.  Continue reading

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Has personality driven politics made a comeback?

With the entry of Narendra Modi into the parliament with unprecedented numbers, one can’t help but wonder if personality driven politics is well and truly back.

It was a sunny evening in Vadodara. Thousands of people flocked to a rally, not because they were asked to, but because they wanted to be a part of it. They wanted to be a part of the jubilation, the ecstasy of a victory, the celebration of a man who had created history.

A fleet of SUVs arrived at the venue with military precision. A bearded man, in his sixties, got down from one of those highly secured vehicles. The crowd which was holding its breath till now, roared in approval. The decibel levels reached a feverish pitch with the crowd chanting in unison. The man in context walked up onto the stage, bowed down to the audience, flashed his victory sign and soaked it all in. For a few minutes, the chants of “Modi! Modi!” seemed to reverberate in every ear across the country, right from people watching from the comfort of their homes to studio panellists on national television.

Narendra Modi has taken the so called “mass appeal” to an altogether different level. From a tea vendor who was a RSS swayamsevak to the Prime Minister of India, it has indeed been an eventful journey.

It is important to note that he has been the face of BJP’s election campaign with absolute certainty. The BJP had an idea, a brilliant one at that, to cash in on one man’s charisma and it has worked big time. It is almost an ingenious touch by the BJP think-tank to have recognized the need for a single powerful face to represent the party. With more than a decade of experience as an able administrator and the now famous words of “growth” and “development” carved handsomely into his resume, Modi seemed the perfect fit. And the move seems to have worked.

The interesting point in this election was the languid nature of the ruling government towards the rise of an opposition that was loud in its approach, yet quietly confident of what it was doing. The INC seemed to be a daze, for they neither picked an able leader to lead them nor showed the gumption to implement some hard decisions. In contrast, the BJP was particularly flamboyant in its advertisement of Mr.Modi and left no stone unturned to project him as the face and soul of the BJP. Looking at the crushing defeat the BJP has handed over to the INC, it’s obvious that the plan has worked.

A political pundit will tell you that Indira Gandhi and her son Rajiv Gandhi had done it in the past. He will also tell you that Modi’s victory margin of 5.7 lakh votes is the second best performance in the Indian electoral history. But statistics and history are not always relevant. Ultimately it’s the present outcome that is most valued, neither your history nor your past laurels.

On that front, Modi has done a tremendous job of uniting various sections of the electorate into giving up their personal preferences and voting for the most arithmetically stable government since 1984. His charisma and personality has fired up the imagination of millions of young and restless Indians, now hungrier than ever. Using his proven track record in Gujarat and his dynamic approach towards governance, he seems to have attracted business groups towards him, lending him a pro-business persona. Case in point, the phenomenal run of the stock market on the day he was declared the winner.

This throws up an important question. Has the electorate evolved over vote bank politics and has moved towards leader driven politics?

It might be premature to say that. At least till the new government functions over a period of time. The new government will definitely be tested at various aspects and the public reaction during the tough times will be an indicator of the general sentiment. But it would suffice to say that the outcome of this election was largely polarized by the voter’s faith in one man. Modi promised development, jobs and every single need of an aspirational middle class, eager to come of the rut they were stuck in.

It would be an aberration to say Modi does not have any detractors. His past has always haunted him across many court cases and judicial battles. Even though he has come out clean on many such allegations, the fodder for the naysayers still exists.

However, this might be the beginning of a new era in Indian politics. An era where individual leaders with public backing might be more influential than a group of highly educated but tainted leaders, where concentration of leadership in the hands of a select few might be the way forward, where coalitions might not make as much sense as they used to, where the electorate is more volatile and demanding than ever.

With a great mandate comes an even greater level of expectation.

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AFTER THE HEAT…..

Thinking about the past few weeks makes me proud and sad at the same time. It makes me proud in the sense that my nation, the biggest ever democracy in the world, India, has successfully completed the biggest ever election in the history of the planet. It makes me sad, disappointed and desperate that my nation, including all the small children part of our huge population, witnessed our politicians abusing each other on the basis of party and profession and most importantly caste and religion.

I am really glad that my nation is going to be steered forward by a government with ruling majority on its own. After 15 long years, my nation is at last ready to shrug away coalition governments. Now, the Prime Minister need not be a puppet. We all saw how a real genius, Dr. Manmohan Singh, was spoiled away by a coalition government. In fact, he was a human who would have been remembered by the world as one of the best ruler the globe ever saw. But he was relegated to just a puppet by the UPA. Now, Mr. Narendra Modi has the freedom to take over the nation as a ruler who needs to consider nothing but ‘DHARMA’.

But, this all the more puts heavy responsibility on his shoulders that the nation would not forgive him, if his government were to consider some mistake. It is now the time for the man, who claims to be a tea vendor, to prove that he will always be there for the common man. Ii is now that Modi should prove that his developments in Gujarat was not something that went with the tide of movements in Gujarat, but his  initiative that has now borne fruits.

Also, Modi has to prove that his secular attitude, which he had spoken off during his campaigning, remains so till the end of his term. He needs to ensure that he rejects recommendations that would stir religious riots in the nation, even if it arises from the RSS. But, with the spirited support of BJP and RSS, let us be sure of something that the intervening of foreign powers in the nation’s steering would rapidly decrease and the level of tolerance towards Pakistan would fall steeply.

All his proposals about the bullet train services linking all the important parts of the nation, Sustained growth in the value of Rupee, development of enough opportunities for the young and empowering women needs to be taken proper care of as the public has paid a lot of trust on the BJP and that is the strongest of the reasons for electing BJ into power.

All the aspiring youth of the nation can now dream of a secured future because the nation has now landed in the hands of a strong government. We can now hope that our dreams become fulfilled. We can now believe that India becomes the last ranked among the nations bathed in corruption and the same time becomes top ranked among the developed nations. Sweet and short, the next five years count a lot in our future.

 

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Welcome to the theatre. Now Showing: the Indian Premier League

The recent spat between Kieron Pollard and Mitchell Starc is just a tick in an assembly line of ‘incidents’ that have occurred over the several editions of IPL.

Indian Premier League: Never short of drama.

When Sunil Gavaskar was appointed as the interim BCCI Chief a few days before the annual Indian cricket carnival event took off, he was adamant that this year’s IPL should be remembered only for the cricket and nothing else. He was, of course, referring to the previous edition’s fixing scandal, that brought about much shame and disrepute to the Indian cricket in general. But alas Mr.Gavaskar, this is the Indian Premier League, which thrives on controversy and public scrutiny.

The IPL, now in its 7th successful edition, has never been shy of a little drama. The IPL has always been viewed as “cricketainment”, an enticing combination of cricket and entertainment. With all the fancy team jerseys that make players look like walking bill boards, over-enthusiastic cheerleaders and high profile after match parties, cricket has never been the sole factor in the success of the IPL.

The pre-match show generally starts an hour before the scheduled start of play, but the actual cricket content and analysis, in bits and pieces, lasts about a third of the running time. Most of it is focussed on the in-studio panellists going gaga over the special guests who turn up to promote their respective trades (read, actors and movies, mostly), a drummer who goes “ba-dum-tuss” everytime Navjot Sidhu enlightens the public with one of his annoying yet trademark ‘shayaris’ and the acrobatic cheergirls shaking a leg to hit Bollywood numbers.

While the glitz and glamour of the IPL have always been there for all the editions, the transgressions in discipline and deteriorating standards in on-field composure also seem to have never abandoned it. Way back in 2008, Harbhajan Singh caused an uproar when he slapped his opponent and India team-mate Sreesanth. He was subsequently banned for the rest of the tournament, but the Mumbai Indians had to deal with a massive PR burnout. Last year, Virat Kohli and Gautam Gambhir, both Delhi and India team-mates got into an ugly spat which was later on justified by Gambhir in his newspaper column, calling it “a tense moment between two passionate individuals”. There is also the incident where the normally zen-like Rahul Dravid took a jibe at Mitchell Johnson after being sledged and thrashing him for a boundary the very next ball. The list of such incidents just keeps on growing as the years go by.

So what makes the competition among the players so fierce? It is after all, franchise based cricket, where the honour of a nation is not at stake. There are a few explanations, though.

A T20 game might be nerve wracking for the fans but it is a high pressure affair for the players, where the dynamics of a game can change in an over. The fact that one missed stumping or dropped catch or even a mis-field can cost the game for a team makes it a highly volatile environment. It sometimes brings out the best in individuals. For example, the two time hiding that AB de Villers has given to Dale Steyn in 2012 and 2014, arguably the best bowler in the world, proves the point. There have also been instances where bowlers have defended a meagre six runs off the last over, a phenomenal feat, considering the nature of the game.

But however intense the environment maybe, flinging bats at opponents and constant bickering can never be justified. And unfortunately, the IPL has a huge fan base among youngsters and budding cricketers, which complicates the issue. When their role models indulge in aggressive acts and use gestures/abusive language, the example being set is not really a favourable one. In a format where quick thinking and swift execution is of prime importance, the “spirit of cricket” seems to have always taken a backseat.

In the past decade,T20 cricket has sparked some wild innovations in all departments of the game and has definitely taken the quality of cricket being played to a notch higher. The IPL is one of a kind tournament, the one that fills the BCCI coffins with mind boggling revenues and brings together the best talent in the world. The general perception is that the IPL has improved relations among the players of different countries. But periodic incidents such as the Pollard-Starc spat force us to reconsider the authenticity of that statement. The focus of this cash rich league has never really been on cricket alone and sadly has relied on gimmicks and controversies to stay in the limelight.

It is probably true when somebody remarked that “cricket is no longer a game, but a multi-million dollar business industry”. An industry where showmanship has taken the lead over the willow vs cherry contest. The good old cricket fan might cringe at this thought, but it remains a sad fact. Cricket is, in every sense of the word, a sport. The players must recognize that being a sport also counts, just playing will not suffice.

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The rush to the Golden throne

The clash of the titans.

It is that time of the year when there are no quiet evenings of television watching. Switch to a news channel and the chaotic debates are sure to put you off. It is a miracle how the panelists hear each other in such a cacophony of retorts and punch lines. Turn on the radio to listen to music while you drive and you will be greeted with innumerable ads of political parties asking for your vote. The popularity of the social media among the public has meant that Twitter and Facebook are overflowing with posts of political affiliations.

It’s that time of the year when the nation is literally boiling. There are two reasons for it : One, being the unrelenting summer and second, the elections. The election heat has made more headlines and impacted living room discussions on an unprecedented level.

It has been reported and opined that the general elections of 2014 are going to be the most fiercely fought elections. Going by the volatile tempers in political circles, it seems a plausible opinion. The verbal war of words has already reached a crescendo but promises to rise much higher.

In his new show, Last Week Tonight, John Oliver compared the general elections to the US elections and hilariously depicted it as a battle between Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi, much like the US elections where the Democrats and Republicans fight it out.

But as Mr.Oliver said, is it the battle between only the two heavy weights of Indian politics? As it turns out, it isn’t. In all fairness to electronic and print media, which has sung the same tune as Mr.Oliver, there are a lot more influential factors that will decide the outcome of the elections. Not just two immensely powerful men.

To put things into perspective, ruling governments at the Center have been alliances rather than single party ruled governments. Perhaps the leniency offered by the democratic system is as such that coalition governments and hung assemblies are the only way forward. Everybody knows the National Democratic Alliance and the incumbent United Progressive Alliance. What people seem to forget is that there is a Third Front, an alliance of 11 political parties, who aspire to trounce the two mainstream alliances.

Regional parties in India have played a significant part in deciding the outcome of the general elections in the past and will continue to do so. In the past leaders such as M.G. Ramachandran and N.T.Rama Rao played a stellar role in affecting the fabric of the governments at the center. Now that the Third Front has some powerful people like Nitish Kumar, Naveen Patnaik, Jayalalithaa, H.D.Gowda and Mulayam Singh Yadav it is quite interesting to see how it fares when it matters. Although the two mainstream parties, the BJP and INC have declined to support any third front, it remains a worrying factor for them.

Coming to the two main players, Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi, the battle has taken some very ugly turns and things are steadily getting out of control. The EC doesn’t seem to care much, even if it did, the verbal volley of attacks seem too diverse and countless to be brought down. The battle is being touted as the one between that of “secular principles” and “development”.

One party accuses the other one of spreading “hatred among communities with non-secular principles” while the latter shoots back, saying the current ruling government stands for “corruption” and “de-growth”. The battle lines have been drawn, jibes exchanged, vociferous campaigns done and presumably back channel talks will surely be very much in progress. Between all the flaring tempers and maligning campaigns, the joy and innocence of an amicable and fair election seems to have been momentarily lost.

There is an excellent quote by an anonymous thinker which sums up the current scenario. It goes like this:

“During the campaign the air is full of speeches - and vice versa.”

Whether the UPA or NDA or Third front comes to power, the world’s largest democratic country deserves a government that provides stability and leads it towards “that” elusive GDP growth. The ‘Golden’ throne eagerly awaits its worthy occupant.

On 16th May 2014, the 16th government of India will be elected and history will be rewritten. Let’s hope the people of this nation get the government they deserve.

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YUVRAJ SINGH: A LOSER OR AN ‘OUT OF TOUCH’ PRINCE?

On 19th september 2007, South Africa saw one of the most astonishing innings it has ever seen. A lad, 26 years old, walked in. With his bat, he smashed the cricket ball around, all flying. All the balls in the 18th over enjoyed a free flight into the stands.  He had done the same earlier in Under 15 and Under 19 World Cups for his national side. He repeated his special performance  at the international level, time and again, and proved his worth over and over again. The Natwest series in England, which he clinched back after a nail biting match from England, with a partnership alongside  Mohammad Kaif, established his importance in the side. He was the best fielder in the Gangulian team. And now, all of a sudden, he has become a villain……………..!

 

Yes, its none other than the PRINCE OF PUNJAB - YUVRAJ SINGH. There is absolutely nothing better to watch than Yuvi at his blistering best. Even against the fastest of bowlers, just a flick of the wrist and then you see the spectators throwing in the ball from the stands. Bowl to Yuvraj on the leg stump, and you will have to collect the ball from the boundary. It is nothing but his heroics that took India into the finals of the 2011 ICC WORLD CUP CRICKET all the way from the group stage. Those innings against Australia and West Indies and his bowling, against almost all the teams, still remains a golden feather in the Indian World Cup triumph.

 

And, now, a single knock that did not rise to the occasion has become a terrible accident to have happened. The same man who was hailed as a prince has now become a villain. Amidst all the blames on Yuvi, people tend to forget that he is a human as well. They seem to forget that he has just returned from the deadliest of diseases. They seem to forget that he is the person who had set the trend of flying in the field before the indian children and cricket aspirants. How can they forget that he has for long been the most trusted batsman for India at no. 05? How can pelting stones at his house for one bad performance, for a bad day at office, be justified? Of course it was the worst possible time for such a costly error. But he deserves kindness and trust. He deserves to be backed by his fans while he is at the wrong end of fortunes.

 

It is high time that we, the fans, realise that cricket is a game and that it  is played by humans and not super humans. We got to accept that even  these superstars are bound to commit mistakes. Criticism, when healthy,  is very good. Even the great Sachin Tendulkar has had to face it. But  pelting stones can occupy only the lowest rung in the ladder of decency.  Yuvraj Singh, we are sorry. It was nothing but our desperateness taking  the form of aggression. We are really sorry that you were at the receiving  end. SORRY…. SORRY…. SORRY….!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Cricket: A great leveller

July 13, 2002: Natwest Series 2002, Final, India vs England

India – 133/4 in 21 overs in reply to England’s 326.

India’s experienced batsmen are back in the pavilion. In walks the 20 year old Yuvraj Singh. He starts off nervously with leg byes off Ashley Giles and then watches in horror as India slump to 147/5. But then, confidence takes center-stage and in the company of the 21 year old Mohammad Kaif, Yuvraj lifts India from shambles and sets the tone for a famous victory. Harsha Bhogle rejoices in the commentary box: “This young man here is playing the innings of his life!”

March 24, 2011: ICC Cricket World Cup 2011, Quarter-final, India vs Australia

India – 143/3 in 28.3 overs in reply to Australia’s 260.

In comes the in-form batsman Yuvraj. There is no nervousness this time. Slams his first ball to the midwicket fence and then in the company of Raina, never really loses sight of the run-rate. Thrashes a scorcher from Brett Lee to the cover boundary, let’s out a mighty roar, flashes his blade in the air, comes down on his knees and displays raw emotion. India canter home with 5 wickets in hand and 14 balls to spare.

April 6, 2014: ICC World T20, Final, India vs Sri Lanka

India – 64/2 in 10.3 overs batting first.

A struggling and out of form Yuvraj Singh comes to the crease. Prods and Plonks at deliveries outside off stump. Tries a slog sweep unsuccessfully. Comes down the wicket and gets beaten. Defends awkwardly to innocuous deliveries. Gets rapped on the pads numerous times. Makes a dispiriting 11 runs off 21 balls, not before failing to give the strike to his in-form batting partner and sucking the momentum out of the innings. India reach a paltry 130. Game over.

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“Life is a succession of lessons which must be lived to be understood.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

At this point, nobody knows this better than Yuvraj Singh. For a man who has conquered some staggering peaks and seen a few crushing blows, it is an irony that the game which had given him a reason to fight and rise above a deadly disease should send him crashing into cricketing oblivion. Make no mistake, his India career is far from over. But gauging by the reactions of the fans, media and experts, a ‘fourth’ comeback in two years now might be next to impossible.

It has been reiterated by people over the years that cricket is an unpredictable game and that factor makes it all the more interesting. But unpredictability can get on to your nerves, especially if you are an emotional Indian fan. Rewind to 1996 and the infamous India vs Sri Lanka World cup match which ended abruptly, with Clive Lloyd, the match referee awarding the game to Sri Lanka as it was highly risky to continue when the crowd was unruly and the stands were set on fire.

Fast forward to 2006: the shocking incident when Sachin Tendulkar was ‘booed’ off his home ground -Wankhede for underperforming. Fans in India have always been vocal with their emotions and this time around, things don’t seem to be rather different.

Reactions from the fans on Yuvraj’s style of play on night of the final have been rather mixed. While some of them have come out in support of the dashing southpaw, others have lambasted him mercilessly. Stray incidents of stone pelting by angry cricket fans on Yuvraj’s home have also been reported. While that is utterly condemnable, it is not at all surprising.

So is Yuvraj the reason for India’s defeat?

Cricket is a team sport. While it is true that singular moments are decisive in a crunch match, it is also naïve to entirely blame individual performances. Yes, his scratchy innings was an ordeal to watch and certainly had some effect on the outcome, but then, a lot of other things went wrong for India.

It is actually pretty hard to predict how the match would have turned out, had he struck the ball well or got out early or at least given much of the strike to his partner, Virat Kohli, who was setting himself up for a flourish at the death. But before the criticism pours in, there are a few factors that need to be considered.

Yuvraj Singh was dropped from the Asia Cup ODI squad a few weeks back. But the selectors deemed it plausible to draft him into the T20 squad for an ICC event and interestingly, a World Cup at that. Now, that’s an awful lot of faith to be shown on a batsman, who wasn’t even in the reckoning for the 50 over format. His domestic returns prior to the tournament have also been uninspiring and did not warrant a natural selection.

M.S.Dhoni is known as man who leads by instinct and a ‘gut feeling’ and that approach has held him in good stead for a long time now. While his decision to promote Yuvraj ahead of the in-form Raina might have been tactical, it is most certainly debatable. But then, Dhoni trusted his trump card of 2007 and 2011 to repeat his magic but the magician seemed to have run out of tricks.

Cricket is, after all, a sport. A team can attempt to explicate all their plans for weeks together, but a flawless execution is never assured. After being the driving force behind two world cup titles, it seems as though that the Yuvraj Singh of yore has gone off the radar. Is he past his prime? Maybe. You never know, for cricket is a funny game and form is a fickle companion.

As Sachin Tendulkar so sensibly put it : “You can criticize Yuvraj, but do not crucify him.”

But then, as disappointed Yuvraj fans will tell you, cricket, in all its glory, is a great leveller.

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