Saturday, March 22, 2008

Sultans of Swing

Yup. The original ones. Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis.

Together, they formed the most lethal opening bowling pair I have seen. My first memories of cricket have these guys in them. India was playing Pakistan in the Australasia cup final in 1994. The Pakistani bowlers ripped through our batting and of course, we lost. I always felt that India was constantly at the back foot when playing Pakistan in the 1990's. Sharjah was the ODI destination of choice then and both countries played a lot there. The finals of the tournaments were held on Fridays and if one of the team was Pakistan, the other team invariably ended up on the losing side. India bore the brunt a number of times.

I was a big fan of Pakistanis' raw aggression - fighting until the last delivery had been bowled. On the other hand, Indians looked and played timidly - rarely did I see the spirit and aggression which has become visible only lately. I think it is the fast bowlers which Pakistan had at that time which differentiated the two teams. The batting was more or less equally adequate and the fielding equally below-par for both the teams. India's record against Pakistan when Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis were operating together bears testimony to this. India lost 60% of the clashes in 1990's.

Of course, India won the world cup ties in 1996 and 1999 and in my opinion victory against Pakistan then meant to us (to me at least) more than our recent victories against them. One reason is India v Pakistan matches were a rarity then; the other is that Pakistan was the stronger team back then. Look at some of our current cricketers going gaga over beating "the strongest team in the world" after the CB series and you get the idea. And who can forget the classic test series when Pakistan visited India in 1999. They had a new weapon in Shoaib Akhtar. The eerie silence at the jam-packed Eden Gardens when he cleaned up Dravid and Tendulkar in successive deliveries was a heart breaking sight.

The reason I am reminicising about all this today are these pioneers of cricket videos on youtube. Some trivia from the videos:. 1) Waqar Younis lost the smallest finger of his left hand while swimming in a canal when he was a teenager. 2) Wasim Akram was a practice bowler for net practice until Imran Khan noticed that he was better than the fast bowlers in the team. Go watch these videos for some breathtaking swing bowling. Especially the inswinging yorkers of Waqar Younis. Its impossible not be awed.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

A New Look and Two Stumbles

I finally changed the blog template today. I found this clear template at FinalSense. This is exactly what I was looking for. A clutter-free design and increased reading area. The original blogger template was darker- something which I had never liked. In terms of creativity, I am as good as English, August's Tamse and hence the easy choice of not creating my own theme. Now I am looking to put a picture in the header and make the title section visually pleasing.

I discovered a couple of very cool blogs in the past few days which I want to mention here. The first one is Helloji. Go here for some light-hearted fun and discussion on all things Indian. Second is Stuff White People Like. This is, and my opinion is shared by almost all white people I consider my friends, is a much hilarious blog. To truly appreciate it, I think you would have to have lived in amreeka for sometime but I think it is fun even if you are not able to catch all the subtleties.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Secular Common Sense

I read Mukul Kesavan's essay on secularism in India. He makes a lot of interesting points which I would like to recount here.

An important point but one which we might already be aware of is that Congress's secularism was founded as an opposition to imperialism. Only when it represented all of the Indian society could congress be successful in its freedom struggle. India as a state as we know it today was ironically formed as a result of imperialistic economic oppression of all sections of our society. If congress were any less secular, then it is possible to imagine that the Indian subcontinent might have been divided into more parts than is the case and the divide and rule policy might, once again have been triumphant.

He quashes the idea which finds many entertainers that Congress (and hence the Indian state) has appeased minorities at the cost of majority to establish the State's secular credentials. Exactly opposite has been the case and too little has been done in this respect. Muslims, and I am speaking of only a section of the minorities here, albeit the largest one, were by all standards of development, backward compared to the rest of the country, even before independence. At the time of partition, many well-to-do Muslims moved to Pakistan and so the discrepancy widened.

Kesavan then talks about reservation. Caste-based reservation was built into our constitution to right the centuries of wrong done to Dalits by the upper caste Hindus. This reservation is exclusively for those Dalits who are Hindu. Thus in a curious way all the minorities, who do not have any kind of reservation have been subsidizing a large section of the Hindus. This, on top of when the ones responsible for the condition of Dalits were Hindus.

I believe that reservation is still necessary to have because the centuries worth of injustice cannot be undone in a short time. But then, we have to make sure that our current policies are not creating future conditions for more reservation. An option could be to make financial condition of a family the criteria for reservation instead of caste.

In 1996, Supreme Court of India in relation to the case of annulling an election on the grounds that the candidates had used religion as a tool to garner votes, ruled that "...the word Hindutva is used and understood as a synonym of "indianization". i.e. development of a uniform culture by obliterating the difference between all the cultures coexisting in the country." At best, Hindutva might be understood as a way of life, just like Islam is. But I do not think the minorities think of Hindutva in the same breath as indianization.

But as an unnatural nation as chronicled beautifully by Ramachandra Guha in India After Gandhi I believe we would go on and become better along the way.

Friday, March 7, 2008


Iqbal Abdulla is a member of our under-19 cricket team which recently won the world cup in Malaysia. Iqbal is originally from Azamgarh in UP and he was discovered and brought to Mumbai four years ago by his coach. He plays as a left-arm spinner and a lower order batsman. He was the only player from Mumbai in the world cup winning team and was the pick of Indian bowlers taking 10 wickets in 6 matches at an average of 13.

More on serendipity, Iqbal Abdulla's father, just like shreyas Talpade's father in the movie Iqbal did not want him to play cricket. He used to think that sport does not have any future. Thankfully he has been proven wrong.

Our Iqbal can talk as well as listen and he is quite witty actually- some qualities which the reel version lacked.

Sources: cricinfo and Indian Express