Cricket: Australian Dominance Continues

Australia won the Cricket World Cup held in the West Indies, as many had expected. With this victory the the Aussies have completed three World Cup titles in a row. The Aussie dominance of world cricket is unparalleled and almost reaching a point where its unhealthy for the game. The good news is that several cricket teams have improved the quality of their game significantly since the World Cup in 2003. The bad news is that the Aussies are still far ahead in terms of consistency, skill and overall professionalism. Ricky Ponting and his men are simply far superior than the rest of the teams combined and this has been the situation for many years.Sri Lanka deserves special credit for their outstanding performance throughout this tournament. Jayawardane has led from the front in all respects and at 29, with several years of cricket still ahead of him, seems to be firmly in-charge of Sri Lankan cricket. Their cricketing future seems bright and one worthy of emulating especially for teams such as Pakistan and India. Bangladesh and Ireland having qualified for the last eight at the expense of India and Pakistan, have plenty to be happy about. New Zealand is a team that seems to consistently progress as far as the semis and they have reason to feel frustrated as one more World Cup went by with another loss in the semis. South Africa return with their “chokers” tag in tact. India, Pakistan and England are back to the drawing board so to speak and have plenty to think about as they plan for the next four years leading up to the World Cup in the sub-continent.

Lastly, this World Cup was poorly planned resulting in poor spectator response. Matches could have been held without huge gaps and the entire World cup could have been completed in half the time. Hopefully, these mistakes will be addressed in the next World Cup. The final moments of the today’s match when the umpires, players and the officials were all in a confused state about the result of the match, was both comical and a sad reflection of the poor management behind World Cricket in general. As the game of cricket adapts to the times, it might be prudent to bring in some professional management at the helm of the ICC and the various Boards of the cricket playing countries.

George Tenet Shouldn’t Try Another “Slam Dunk”

Is George Tenet trying another slam dunk? Oh, please no! Thankfully, this time it is in the form of a book.

“As if you needed me to say ‘slam dunk’ to convince you to go to war with Iraq,’ ” Mr. Tenet apparently writes of Mr. Cheney’s infamous accusation that the WMDs were a CIA conclusion. While the decision to go to war was mostly that of the President and his insiders, Mr. Tenet simply can’t point fingers and try to go unscathed. He claims that the “slam dunk” comment was taken out of context. Even if this might be the case, it is well known that the Bush administration widely publicized the CIA findings as the basis for going to war. If Mr. Tenet felt strongly enough, he should have stood up for what he believed in at that time, rather than crying foul now. I suspect his book does more damage to himself than anybody else. Mr. Cheney is an easy target and so even if Mr. Tenet’s accusations were true, it does little to absolve him of any of the blame for the Iraq war.

According to the article in NY times, Mr. Tenet apparently expresses puzzlement that, since 2001, Al Qaeda has not sent “suicide bombers to cause chaos in a half-dozen American shopping malls on any given day.” “I do know one thing in my gut,” he writes. “Al Qaeda is here and waiting.” — And this guy was the CIA chief? When you read this, it sure sounds like his “slam dunk” defense seems less plausible.

With each passing day the Iraq war is losing its supporters, thankfully. Those responsible are in some form of trouble or the other if not already out of the scene. At the present moment, those responsible for the current state of affairs can better serve the world (and themselves) by trying to help deal with the mess in Iraq, than cashing in by writing books about the shameful past.

AOL: Better Late, Than Never

AOL launched its India site today. With established portals and newspaper sites already well entrenched, AOL’s move seems rather late. But with substantial growth still possible as more Indians get on the net, its a classic case of better late than never. Besides, there is plenty of ad revenue to be made provided AOL can drive the traffic to its site.

As for content and services offered by the site, there is nothing new. Its the usual “boring” stuff — Free email, news and articles on Bollywood, Cricket, Business etc. If you are one of those who is not satisfied with Samachar, HT, TOI, Rediff and the like, here is one more to the mix. The stuffing is the samei, but the package/label differ.

Cricket: Over-Aggressiveness Cost SA

South Africa went into the semi-finals against Australia with a very tough task ahead of them. Smith won the toss and elected to bat on what was supposed to be a batting track where as the match progressed, scoring runs would get more difficult (courtesy: Ian Botham’s analysis of the wicket). Unfortunately, SA pretty much lost the match in the first hour. It can be attributed completely to their over-aggressiveness. Smith is known of his aggression and on several occasions, it has served him well. But today was not of one of those days. 

In the third over of the innings he jumped out a couple of steps trying to hit the ball out of the ground! Next, of all people Kallis, an otherwise sedate, level-headed batsmen, exposed all his stumps in an attempt to hit McGrath over the top! (Ponting’s pre-match characterization of Kallis as a “slow-coach” seems to have paid off!). From then on it looked like SA had no plan B whatsoever. Prince, the ideal man for the situation, threw his wicket away to a disgraceful swipe at a virtual wide ball!

In short, pretty much all the batsmen went out and had wild swings! Nothing epitomized this approach more than the insane shot played by the last batsman, Langveldt. With still 5+ overs to go and big-hitter Kemp at the other end, Langveldt tried to hit Watson out of the park when he should have been trying to stick around and give his partner the strike!

The South African team has over the years earned the name “chokers” for losing close games. This time around they strangled themselves and choked right upfront! Its sad to see a team that had the best chance of giving Australia a run for their money, completely fall apart.

Cricket: SL Peaked Early?

Sri Lanka was at its very best in the game against NZ (the eternal semi-finalists). Led by the captain, Sri Lanka’s batting was simply outstanding. For a team that has no real big hitters in the middle order, the amount of runs they made in the last 10 overs was simply remarkable. Jayawardene was outstanding to say the least. In the early part of his innings he was struggling to force the pace. But he remained calm as ever and more than made up for it in the second half of his innings. It was great example of ODI batsmanship. The kind of big hits that he produced at the end were so “uncharacteristic” when you think about his normal batting style. SL had two very poor lbw decisions against them, despite which they went on to make a very challenging total.

The SL bowling is so strong especially on the turning tracks in the WI that anything over 200 is a tough total to chase against them. With 290 to get NZ needed a big innings from one of their top batsmen, but it never came through, thanks to Murali’s magic. New Zealand’s main strike bowler, Shane Bond had a poor start from which he never recovered and this was consistent with NZ’s performance today overall.

Hats off to Stephen Fleming for quitting the ODI captaincy. The timing could not have been better. During the last decade, he has served NZ cricket in a big way both as captain and as an ODI player. Besides, he has even een grooming his successor. Martin Crowe was over-reacting by criticizing the NZ team and the coach, John Bracewell. After so many good games NZ just lost to a better team on a bad day.

One can only hope that Sri Lanka does not repeat India’s performance in the last World Cup final after so many great performances in a row. The fear is that SL’s performance today was so good, that its almost impossible to match this level of performance. It would be awful to see another one-sided final, especially one featuring a dominant Aussie team.

Btw, if my pre-World Cup predictions were to come true, SA should beat the Aussies in the other semi-finals! 🙂

Pubished at 96!

Harry Bernstein, a 96 year old man published his first book titled “The Invisible Wall”. See the article. Admirable spirit indeed! Apart from the fact that he was 96 years old, the other interesting fact is that he sent the book directly to the publisher(without an agent), in this case, Random House UK. NY Times published a review of the book.

“If I had not lived until I was 90, I would not have been able to write this book,” he said. “I wasn’t ready.”

Custom Home Furnishings

There was an article the Mercury News the other day about a home furnishings company by name Divine Designs. Its a great story about an Indian immigrant who was into Home Furnishings as a hobby. She started her business after she re-decorated her home with custom drapes and caught the interest of friends to start with and then slowly expanded beyond that rather organicaly. In the midst of all the conventional hi-tech stories that make the rounds in Silicon Valley, its great that the Mercury News has chosen to highlight an off-beat, yet fascinating success story.

Movie Review: Namesake

Title: Namesake

Starring: Kal Penn, Tabu, Irfan Khan
Language: English
Director: Mira Nair

Not having read the book (Pultizer prize winning novel by Jhumpa Lahiri with the same name), I went into see this movie with absolutely no preconceived expectations about the movie. It is one more of those “crossover” films where Bollywood stars share the screen with Western actors.

The movie is set partly in Kolkata and the rest in New York (NY). The story revolves around an immigrant family from India living in NY. The young man, Ashoke (played by Irfan) comes to the US as a student and returns to India to have an arranged wedding (something many NRIs can relate to quite easily). Then, he lives with his wife in NY and has two kids, a boy and girl. The boy, named Gogol (after his Dad’s favorite Russian author) is the central character in the film. Kal Penn does a remarkable job as Gogol playing the role of a second generation Indian kid growing up in America. Bollywood stars, Irfan and Tabu as the couple deliver creditable performances.

The Director deserves credit for the manner in which several scenes, particularly the emotional ones, are handled. These scenes are captured very tactfully with subtle facial expressions and minimal dialogues. The parents have been portrayed as being traditional, at the same time, the Director has done a fine job of not overdoing it like most other cross-over films. Overall Namesake is a well-made, and watchable film. If you are a desi immigrant in the US, this movie won’t disappoint you.

And now here are a few complaints about the film. When Irfan’s character, Ashoke, temporarily moves to Ohio from NY, it is not clear why his wife chose not to move with him. For a traditional Indian housewife, it made little sense not to follow her husband especially since her kids were no longer living with them. It might have been a little bit more believable, if he was moving a great distance, to say Australia or some place in Europe.

Mira Nair appears to have succumbed to the temptation to add needless “masala” by introducing a partial nude scene. There was no need for it in the film whatsoever. Likewise there was a brief Hindi song with Gogol and Moushimi. This was neither funny nor did it seem to serve any purpose in the story.

The scene where Gogol tells his Mom that he was separating from Moushimi, could have been better handled. In reacting to the news, the Mom simply accepted it and blamed herself for it! She did little to offer to help. This I thought was very unusual especially for first generation immigrants from India.

The photography (by Fredrick Elmes) in the film is nothing to write home about. Of late, Bollywood films have come a long way with regard to the quality of its photography. Films by Mani Ratnam, K. Shankar, and Ram Gopal Verma, in particular, tend to stand out in this regard. Considering the availability of excellent desi talent, Mira Nair might have been better off tapping “off-shore” resources for this part of the project! 🙂

John Edwards’ Hairy Issues

As if his infamous hair styling video was not enough, John Edwards now has another issue to deal with, once again related to his hair! John Edwards spent $800 on two hair-cuts and to make matters worse showed it as “consulting fee” on his campaign expenses! Now he is re-paying his campaign for these expenses.

Its impossible to defend or be supportive of such actions. On the other hand, in this day and age, where elections are decided to a large extent on TV, candidates have a dual challenge of appearing to represent the common man and at the same time looking as photogenic as they possibly could. It is easy to criticize these folks (Bill Clinton had his own hair-cut issues when he was President) and brand them as hypocrites. The reality is that these folks are just a product of the times we live in. In the pre-television era it was probably a lot easier to focus on the issues and less on ones’ looks. After all studies have shown that these days attractive people earn more money!

Needless Sensationalism

Spin by the media is not exactly new. But it simply crosses the line when you have serious issue like the murder of Pakistan Cricket Coach, Bob Woolmer. Check out these two news reports, one on the Cricket website and the other on Times of India website, both on the same topic. The cricket site report is restrained as it should be and reports that the investigators have made significant progress. The TOI reports on the other hand are supposedly based on a report in the Independent. The TOI reports that the killer has been identified! The independent goes on to add its own piece of a “masala” with a needless comment, “Police declined to comment on the identity of the suspect, understood to be male, or say whether he is a member of the Pakistan team or management”. And the TOI promptly picked up this piece of masala to say “According to The Independent , the suspect is a male but the police have declined to comment if he is a member of the Pakistan team or the management.”

Why on earth would the police comment on a query like that? Isn’t the media implicitly accusing the Pakistan team by asking such queries?