Musharraf: Pak’s Best Bet

There was an article in the Washington Post by Benazir Bhutto, making a plug for returning Pak to democracy and requesting the West to re-consider ongoing support for President Musharraf’s military regime. The article did make several good arguments though it was highly self-serving. The reality of the political situation in Pak is that the two main alternatives to military rule, Nawaz Sharif and Ms. Bhutto herself, have had their opportunities in the past and during which time earned little credibility to speak off. Ms. Bhutto is widely believed to have lead one of the most corrupt Governments in Pak history. Mr. Sharif on the other hand, gave us the Kargil (his pronouncements after his ouster not withstanding) war against India. If any of the civilian governments in Pak over the years had taken some bold steps to make lasting peace with a vibrant democracy like India, the overall environment in the region might have been very different from what it is today. Unfortunately, successive civilian governments in Pak have all been corrupt, consistently meddled with India (and now with Afghanistan), done little to curb religious extremism, all while enjoying the largesse of the US.

Historically, civilian rule in Pak has never really worked and has always been short-lived. In the current environment, it is even less likely to be successful and could possibly be dangerous if an extremist government came to power. It is increasingly obvious that there is an alarming rise of religious extremism in Pakistan. This has been further accelerated by the spill over from the troubles in Afghanistan. Pak’s role in instigating trouble in Kashmir is universally accepted, its 9-11 roots have been established, to name a few other signs of trouble. Under the circumstances, ironically, a military dictator whose survival is precarious, offers the best bet. He can successfully keep all the warring factions at bay, clamp down the troublesome democracy proponents, sporadically capture terrorists to appease the West, occasionally talk peace with neighbor India but never remain really committed to it, cozy up to China from time to time, but ultimately give the US a freehand in the fighting the terrorists in Afghanistan etc.

In short, its a win-win for most parties involved except for those seeking to return to power. In all likelihood, President Musharraf is here to stay (like General Zia) until the US feels it is had enough of him. The US policy toward Pakistan is based on a pragmatic “better to be safe, than sorry” philosophy. With the current US obsession with the war on terror, this policy is unlikely to change anytime soon.

Woolmer: Cricket’s Big Loss

It was shocking to hear the news of Bob Woolmer’s death shortly after his team, Pak bombed out of Cricket World Cup. Woolmer was one of the leading thinkers of the game. It is a well known fact that he was the first to introduce the use of computers into cricket. The entire cricketing world has followed his path of incorporating the use of latest technology in cricket. His death is a huge loss to the entire cricketing world.

Its highly likely that the stress had a lot to do his sudden death. Pak performance this world cup has been dismal to say the least. Despite being an excellent coach Woolmer could do little to turnaround Pakistan’s politics-ridden cricket. I wouldn’t have been surprised if Woolmer had a book in the works (considering the number of cricket books these days) covering his experiences of coaching Pak and dealing with its internal politics.

Woolmer still clearly had a lot to offer the cricketing world and it was sad and unfortunate that this happened.

World Cup: Re-thinking Sehwag’s Role

India made a huge mistake in the match against Bangladesh by opening with the out of form Sehwag. The man badly needs a break and in his current form simply doesn’t deserve to open the innings. If you look at India’s batsmen — Ganguly, Yuvraj, Sachin have all had breaks forced or injury-driven and it has done them and the team a world of good.

Its no secret that Sehwag hasn’t scored anything worthwhile since his failures at the last World Cup in 2003. Yet, if the captain is so fond of having him around, its best if he retains him in the team for the all rounder spot and have him bowl his 10 overs and have a go with the bat in the slog overs. That’s the role he can do justice to. Unfortunately, Sehwag’s bowling does not find favor with Dravid , despite his good bowling performance on the recent Carribean tour. Sehwag is always brought into the attack as an after thought — well after Sachin, Ganguly and Yuvraj have been tried.

Rahul Dravid’s captaincy could sink merely because of this decision to persist with Sehwag or he could seem a genius for persisting with Sehwag. Only in India will a player be persisted with for such a long time. Even the likes of Hayden and Martin have been dropped at sme time or the other. Treating him as an all rounder and dropping him down the order for the slog overs makes sense irrespective of his performance in the match against Bermuda.

Cricket: World Cup Swings Into Action

The World Cup swung into some serious action these past few days – excitement, surprises and some super lative performances from lesser known teams.

Pak Crash Out of the World Cup: Pak was the first casualty as it literally drove itself out of the super-8 stage by losing to both WI and Ireland. Hats off to the Irish for their stupendous effort. Its understatement to say that Pak was well below par. But then, I think Pak had it coming (check out Pak Must Look Beyond Inzy from Feb last year). Besides, without Shoaib, Asif and Razzack, Pak was too depleted a side and the results speak for itself.

Bangladesh Excels: Bangladesh rocked the star studded Indian team. Slow starters India, suffered a severe wake up call. There is no question that Bangladesh put up a superb show. Their fielding was outstanding and their bowlers did a superb job of restricting India’s stroke makers. Their batting was very impressive. India’s leader bowler, Zaheer Khan was belted around the park like he were a club level bowler. Munaf and Agrarkar did no better.

Bangladesh fully deserved to win. However, they are capable pulling off a “West Indies” and slumping to the other extreme. Dav Whatmore was perfectly right when he down played the victory that it was “just one match”.

The British are Drinkin: Flintoff and co. were in deep trouble for a drinking binge. Flintoff might have escaped this incident for now, but when England is out of the World Cup, there is bound to be a resurgence of attacks on the man for this incident. With Michael Vaughan’s fitness being an eternal issue and Andrew Strauss hopelessly out of form, it will e interesting to see who would step in to lead if needed.

KBC: Shahrukh Does a Better Job

I saw a few recent episodes of the ever popular Kaun Banaga Crorepati (KBC) television show. I thought Shahrukh Khan does a far better job than Amitabh. I thought Amitabh was stiff, father-like and very often quite boring. Shahrukh Khan was at ease, charming and made the show far more interesting. In fact, the biggest downside with Shahrukh Khan is that he is capable of over-doing it, much like his films. Besides, to maintain performance on an ongoing basis is not easy. For now, Mr. Khan surely does a better job, in my opinion.

Chuck Hagel’s Announcement

Senator Chuck Hagel called a press conference yesterday to announce that he has postponed his decision about running for President.

He said, “America is facing its most divisive and difficult issue since Vietnam — the war in Iraq, an issue that I have been deeply involved in,” said Mr. Hagel, a critic of the war. “I want to keep my focus on helping find a responsible way out of this tragedy, and not divert my energy, efforts and judgment with competing political considerations.”

With all due respect to Mr. Hagel, couldn’t he just have posted this on his blog or on his website. Did he have to call a press conference to say this? In other words, he announced that he hasn’t decided to announce his candidacy for President!!! It will be interesting to see how many folks show up for his next press conference 🙂

Hello??? How out of touch with the times are some folks in Washington?

World Cup Opener: WI Expose Pak Weaknesses

The Pak team simply has way too many shortcomings and the World Cup opener just confirmed that. Without Shoaib and Asif at the start and Razzack in the middle overs Pak’s bowling simply lacks the strength to curtail or bowl out the opposition. Mohammed Hafeez and Rao Anjum are great back up bowlers who can easily do justice to being the fourth and fifth bowlers but to expect these folks to do more than that is a clear sign of weakness in the team composition. To make matters worse Rana is far from his best at the moment. That really leaves only Umar Gul as the main strike bowler. Danish Kaneria’s fielding weakness is hard to hide and his position in the team is probably just a temporary fix until Afridi is back. In the final analysis, however, Pak lost this match more so because of its batsmen than its bowlers.

242 was by no means a difficult target. Firstly, it required some disciplined batting without the need for heroics. Unfortunately, heroics is what many of the top order batsmen attempted. Imran Nazir, Hafeez and Younis Khan were all out to needlessly ambitious strokes. That left Inzy and Yousuf fighting to consolidate and at one point it looked like they would. However, after both of them left in quick succession, Pak completely lost the plot. Shoaib Malik has done well at the top of the order and its not clear why Pak would not continue with him and Kamran or Hafeez at the opening slot. That should free up the middle order for an extra batsmen or all rounder to come in after Inzy.

As for the WI this was a good comeback game after the disgraceful practice match against India. Samuels looked in great touch and though Lara looked equally in good form, failed to carry on to a big score. Sarwan chose to be aggressive from the word go and was lucky to survive a first ball duck. After the bad start, the WI did well to reach 242. Backed by some disciplined bowling and tight fielding the WI quite comfortably bowled Pak out below 200.

Team India: Finding The Ideal Combination

The two practice games showed that India is settling in quite nicely to the Carribean conditions. The WI match was a big let down with hardly anything to fight for when chasing the paltry score of 85. Yet, Sehwag failed with a duck. Its time for Dravid to wake and smell the coffee so to speak. Sehwag was not the force he once was and continuing to send him at the top of the order is going to hurt the team real bad. Another embarrassment for the captain is Irfan Pathan. He was bowling at a speed of less than 110!

Its best that Uthappa open the innings with Ganguly. He appears to offer exactly what Viru offered at the start of his career. A fast eye, ability to hit the ball hard and score runs at a breath taking pace that can really unsettle the opposition. Dravid, Sachin, Yuvraj, and Dhoni form the rest of the middle order. Agarkar, Bhajji, Zaheer and Munaf together make up the bowling combination.

That leaves just the one spot. The question before team management would be whether to play an extra batsman, extra bowler or an all rounder. The choices being Kumble, Viru, Karthik or Sreesanth. A good all rounder (which is Team India’s biggest weakness) would have been an automatic choice for this spot. On a turning track Kumble becomes an automatic choice for this reaming slot in the team, while Sreesanth should get the nod on a fast track. That leaves Pathan, Sehwag and Karthik to chose from. If Dravid is still entertaining thoughts of backing Sehwag, the least he could do was to drop him down the order and hope that he comes good in the slog overs. Based on current form, Pathan’s batting is clearly a better bet than Viru for the middle order. On the other hand, Sehwag’s bowling on the slow Carribean tracks is likely to be more effective than Pathan’s deteriorating bowling. Unfortunately, Dravid seldom uses Sehwag’s bowling skills to the maximum. It will be interesting to see which way the team management goes. For now, its clear that both Pathan and Sehwag are showing no signs of recovering from their slump in form and continuing to carry them in the playing 11 seems like a stretch.

Glamor meets IT

I have read recent reports (accompanied by scores of photographs) in the media about the recent Arun Nayar-Liz Hurley wedding. I was pleasantly surprised to read that Mr. Nayar heads up an IT firm!

Can’t remember the last time when an IT executive came together with a movie star. Is this a new trend? Revenge of the nerds 2.0, perhaps? 🙂

Finally, Something on Obama?

Senator Obama’s opponents have finally found something to put him on the defensive? Well maybe, maybe not. So far he has little or no record, so his opponents have been working hard to drum up some scandal or the other. Have they found one? Not quiet.

The accusation is that he invested in some stocks (supported by his donors) and lost 13K! Let it pass, give the guy a break, he lost money after all! Dream up something more substantial — “I did not have s…. with that….” or “I did not inhale…” or something more beefy. This one is a poor attempt to dig up some dirt! Surely, his opponents can do better?