Jayasurya Quits, But Not Quite!

Sanath Jayasurya announced his retirement from Tests after the second Test against Pak. Firstly hats off to him for quitting while still in the Test team. He was dropped and then brought back to the Test team and he could not have chosen a better time to call it quits. One could argue that he should have quit earlier, but he is still very much a force though not to the extent that the world has known him to be. His biggest problem in recent times has been recurring injuries — his last Test being a prime example.

He has been a star performer for SL over the years and it would have been sad to see him go without a dignified farewell. The SL selectors deserve credit for facilitating this. Likewise, Jayasurya deserves credit for moving on without having to be axed for good.

I suspect he won’t make it to the World Cup though he has expressed his desire to retire completely from International cricket after the event. But the sad truth is that he is starting to fall apart with injuries and can be a huge liability to the SL team despite his unquestionable talent. If he does make it to the WC team, it will be a sad reflection on SL’s bench strength.

Immigration Issue Takes Centerstage

Immigration is a hot issue today on the US political battlefield particularly because its an election year. Proposals and counter proposals are flooding the capital. In the rush to solve this seemingly perennial crisis most politicians on both sides of the aisle are doing little to try and separate illegal and legal immigration. All the discussions range from extreme protectionist measures to political maneuvering to gain the upper hand on the issue.

One the one hand, all and sundry especially in Washington love to talk about how America is falling behind in Math and Science education. Besides, there is constant talk of how even high end jobs are moving overseas. Yet, in our backyard here in Silicon Valley there are scores highly qualified advanced degree holders diligently working for high tech companies, paying taxes and doing every bit to help the US economy. Yet, such folks are forced to wait for years to get their green card. This scenario has not changed for decades. Ironically, despite being a country of immigrants, the US still seems to have a hard time differentiating the qualified legal immigrants from the rest!

Why should all green card holders not have a right to vote and participate in the political process? In the obsession to tackle illegal immigration, legal immigrants who should be welcomed with open arms are being put through inordinate senseless delays as Government Departments struggle to cope with meaningless paper work.

I think both political parties would do America a world of good if they placed all legal immigration on a fast track. Give green card holders citizenship without having to go through another two year application process. Make it attractive and quick for H1Bs to convert to green cards holders. Likewise offer incentives for foreign students with advanced degrees to stay in the country. Maybe Ph.Ds get citizenship after 2-3 years of work in the US, maybe they get incentives to continue their research, commericalize their research etc., MS grads get special incentives for pursuing doctoral degrees.

The intent is certainly not to trivilize the immigration challenge. It is certainly a critical issue with very wide ranging implications and has to be dealt with carefully (esp in a election year!). But as a start illegal and legal immigration must be separately dealt with espicially at a time when America’s future is supposedly at stake with loss of jobs overseas, decline in education standards, the economic downturn, the endless war on terror, and the works. The immediate fix might not bee too complicated and might lie in fixing legal immigration. The Silicon Valley magic might just return! At a min this will turn the tables against America’s so-called competition from India and China. We’ll have the best and brightest moving here rather than the reverse brain drain that is happening today to some extent.

First ODI: Bhajji Strikes, Finally!

Team India continued its winning streak in ODIs under Dravid pulling off a fine win after England seemed completely in control at 117 for 3 chasing a modest 203. India’s total was quite impressive given that the bulk of the batting was back in the hut for less han 100 runs. In defending the modest total India pulled of a seemingly improbable win thanks to some fine bowling from Bhajji, Yuvraj and Pathan.

Here are a few key takeaways from this game for Team India..

  • Bhajji delivers under pressure: The presence of Romesh Powar seems to have produced an inspired show by Bhajji both with the bat and ball. Competition is good and keeps everyone honest. I thought India might go in with Powar given his batting talents and his current bowling form. Hats off to the team management for persisting with Bhajji. A gamble that paid off given his run of poor form at least from a wicket taking perspective.
  • Viru’s struggle continues: It might be time to think of a counter strategy since the situation has persisted for a while. Open with Dhoni (or someone new) and drop Viru down the order, perhaps. He could come in very useful in the last 15 overs.
  • Lack of a genuine allrounder: Yuvraj might have done a great job with the ball today, but if the plan is to groom him for the fifth bowler slot India’s think tank should make sure that he bowls his quota in every match. These recent victories are hiding India’s primary weakness — Lack of a genuine all rounder. Someone who routinely bowls his quota of 10 overs and is capble of making a big score from time to time a la Flintoff, Symonds, Kallis, Dilshan, Styris, Afridi, Razzack. Since the team is on a winning streak there is no talk of it these days and JP Yadav has quietly dropped out of sight. In short, the team is back to 3 seamers plus one spinner and no real genuine 5th bowler. In difficult times, this weakness is likely to be exposed. This series is India’s best chance to explore all rounder options.

Lastly, a salute to the curators at the Kotla. ODIs don’t have to be run fests! Here was a pitch that had plenty for fast bowlers and spinners and for batsmen who were wiling to apply themselves. Naturally, we ended up with a well fought ODI where both bowlers and batsman had a role to play. Lets hope to see more ODI pitches of this kind!

Bollywood embraces hi-tech

If you have been watching Bollywood films over the years you might have observed the rapid advances in the overall quality of film making. While the conventional song and dance is very much in vogue, the various aspects of film making like photography, lighting, special effects etc have improved by leaps and bounds (e.g., Black, Yuva (most Mani Ratnam films). I guess this trend is going to continue. Check out this report about some technology adoption by Bollywood studios.

Twenty-twenty can help unearth key talent

In this fast paced global economy, the age of instant gratification, even an ODI is fast becoming a luxury. Twenty-twenty matches have started to take off so much so that a World Cup is being planned. India, Pak and SL have been slow in adopting this. Its in their best interest to start early. These three countries are key to filling ICC coffers, so its unlikely that the ICC can pull of this World Cup without their active participation. In any case, as this form of cricket gains acceptance, it makes sense to adapt to this sooner rather than later.

In fact, I think 20-20 matches must be started at the domestic level right away. At a minimum it will help identify key talent for the 2007 World Cup. India still lacks a good all rounder. 20-20s might be the road to finding this elusive player.

Mumbai Test: Positives from India’s defeat!

The Indian batting collapsed on Day 5 of the Mumbai Test match for a pathetic score of 100! A lot has been said since this defeat, “Bring back Ganguly (only Kolkata based Telegraph reported this btw), Sack Chappell etc. etc”.

The performance was certainly disappointing. But I think there is reason for optimism. There is no doubting the fact that this team management is very keen on experimenting. This means that there are lessons to be learnt at every stage. The learning from these experiments has resulted in swift changes in the team and I think that it is likely to continue. I would give credit to Dravid and Chappell for experimenting rather than call for their sacking!

The Toss
Putting England to bat was an experiment that failed. The thinking was that India would bowl England out cheaply and pile up a big score and not have to bat again. This experiment failed. If it had succeeded all the the team management would have been praised to the skies by all and sundry. Notice that Dravid accepted that this was a mistake. A rare admission by an Indian captain.

The Batting:

Dropping VVS was a mistake. Yuvraj is still very much an ODI player and is far from capable of replacing VVS in Tests. Again, another experiment that failed. The lesson here is to bring back VVS into the 11. I suspect this will happen on the WI tour.

Five Bowlers:

I think this is a positive move. As Dravid pointed out India needs five bowlers in order to win a test. Unfortunately, the five are not in their best form. Bhajji and Pathan are struggling while the other three are showing good results. The lesson here is to play five “in form” bowlers. Sreesanth and Munaf are two new finds who are likely to remain for quite sometime. Agarakar, Nehra, Balaji, and Zaheer have been swapped out for good. Bhajji is feeling the heat with Powar knocking on the door wit superb domestic performances. Pathan will be shown the door if his bowling deteriorates. None of this would be happening but for the recent experiments.

The Dropped Catches

Again, Dravid rightly pointed out that because of changes in the team, India didn’t have the right fielders in specialist positions. Yuvraj in slips and other close catching positions for instance. I am not sure there is an easy fix for this. But at least the captain appears to have recognized this shortcoming.

When I read Dravid’s comments I sense there is some “learning” from these mistakes. The responses are sensible and thoughtful. Besides Dravid is clearly not afraid to admit his errors and take responsibility.

This defeat is not new considering historic data. The Indian team has almost always failed when chasing a total on the last day (recent Pak series, Pak in India in Bangalore are just two recent examples). But what is positive here is that India now has a learning captain (as seen in his comments) and a thinking coach neither of whom are afraid to experiment.

Sachin (I suspect!) was deliberately rested from the ODIs with an eye towards the World Cup. I think Powar will play in first ODI ahead of Bhajji. Venu and Raina will keep Kaif and Yuvraj honest. Gambhir must be motivated to excel while Viru is under pressure to get out of his slump. RP and VRV are waiting to replace Sreesanth and Munaf or Pathan.

When is the last time India had so much prime talent waiting in the wings?

Sonia has opposition on the backfoot!

In a master stroke Sonia Gandhi quit her post as MP. I think it a very smart move. On the one hand her supporters are bound to go berserk over this. On the other she continues to have power and influence over the ruling coalition. Most importantly, the BJP and the rest of the opposition will have a hard time dealing with this crisis. Her political brilliance is continuing to shine, no doubt.

India-England Third Test: Leading with the Tail?

When I saw the score card this morning with India at 18 for 1 and Kumble batting while Irfan was back in the pavilion, I thought this was part of new strategy to lead with the tail! After all Kumble and Pathan have batted better than most in this series. It was when I read the details that I realized that Viru was down with an injury.

Don’t be surprised if you see Dhoni walk in next. It might not be a bad bet to send in the in form stroke players first and then pull down the shutters if the ploy fails! 🙂