Cricket: Bangladesh Tour

India’s tour of Bangladesh is nothing to write home about as pointed out by the Indian skipper, Rahul Dravid. It just confirmed what was already known — that Bangladesh has a long way to go before becoming a team worthy of Test status.

  • Dinesh Karthick once again proved himself to be a fighter. His real test will however be on the England tour. Hopefully, the electors won’t fall back on the hopelessly out of form Sehwag.
  • Jaffer fought back after a pair in the first test, to ensure a berth on the tour of England.
  • Tendulkar scored two centuries in a row. For now, his critics might take a break, but he won’t keep his detractors away until he can do something similar on the tour of England.
  • Rajesh Pawar will hopefully get another tour to prove himself and won’t be dumped after being benched for the two Tests.

Overall, India lost a golden opportunity to unearth some young talent by continuing to play Sachin, Sourav and the like. Their centuries mean little besides helping beef up their averages to cover for failures on the tour of England!

Microsoft ‘s Yahoo Acquisition Still Possible

With a $6B acquisition, Microsoft is significantly beefing up its online ad strategy. Although the rumors of the Yahoo acquisition having died down, the aQuantive acquisition just confirms the fact that Microsoft is looking very actively at various strategies to counter Google’s huge lead in the advertising space, before its too late. With Yahoo’s acquisition of Right Media and Google’s acquisition of Double Click, the online ad space is prime for some serious competition among the big 3 and the fast fading AOL.

The Yahoo acquisition is still very much a possibility for many reasons. (Not to mention, Yahoo now has a new CFO with deep ties in the banking industry).Yahoo is still the #2 player in the search space. With Panama, Yahoo has managed to ape Google’s Adwords to a great extent. Further, Yahoo still has a huge market of advertisers, second only to Google. If you disregard the overlap between Microsoft and Yahoo services, and look at only the search and advertising market, a Yahoo Microsoft marriage still seems a distinct possibility with plenty of synergy despite the aQuantive acquisition.

Wolfowitz Saga: “Win-Win” Politics

Mr. Wolfowitz had apparently rubbed many on the wrong side at the World Bank and to make matters worse had landed himself in a scandal. His opponents pounced on the opportunity and saw this as a way to get rid of him. They accused him of being “unethical” among other things.

Mr. Wolfowitz being a hand picked appointee of President Bush complicated the matter even more. His opponents were threatening to fire him and to find a replacement candidate. Historically, the US has had control of the top job of the World Bank which has been an appointee of the US President. In short, there was a conflict and three affected parties.

What followed was classic “win-win” politics. Mr. Wolfowitz agreed to quit provided the World Bank withdrew their accusations against him. The President agreed to the compromise, provided he could appoint his replacement. In short, it was time to for some seemingly friendly kisses, although of the goodbye kind! However, the World Bank Group Staff Association, issued a statement trashing both Mr. Wolfowitz and the Wold Bank Board!

While Mr. Wolfowitz has finally done the necessary thing by resigning, he has damaged the institution and continues to damage it every day that he remains as its President. He cannot continue to be the face of the World Bank. He has demeaned the Bank, insulted the staff, diminished its clients, and dragged this institution through the mud. He put his own interests before those of the institution. In making a statement of gratitude to Mr. Wolfowitz, the Board has done the same. They have attempted to save his face and in so doing have destroyed that of the institution that they are entrusted to protect.

The World Bank Group needs to rebuild its credibility immediately, regain its focus and devote its full attention to its clients. This cannot be done while Mr. Wolfowitz remains in his position as President. See all the related statements here.

Its a pity that similar political crisis resolution could not be achieved prior to the Iraq war, given that both President Bush and Mr. Wolfowitz were the key players at that time as well.

Cricket: India’s Team Selection Flawed

With the two Test series against Bangladesh about to get underway, team India is faced with difficult decision about which heavy weight to drop! After a dismal World Cup the decision to rest Ganguly and Sachin for the ODI series was at best a half-hearted attempt at responding to the public’s frustration with the team. Considering that Test cricket is Bangladesh’s weaker form of the game, shouldn’t India continue and experiment with some young blood? A combination comprising of Jaffer, Dravid, Karthik, Dhoni, VVS, plus a couple of new comers should be more than sufficient to challenge Bangladesh.

It is painful to read that India has to make a choice about whom to drop among Sachin, Yuvraj, Ganguly and VVS, whe so many talented youngsters are back warming the benches in India. There were reports in the media that both Ganguly and Sachin were eye-ing the captaincy (which neither of them have surprisingly denied!). Under these circumstances, its all the more important, that Dravid to make some tough decisions. Hopefully, the World Cup defeat will encourage him to make some bold selection calls.

The lack of penetration of Indian bowlers is not new. So a five bowler combination would make a lot of sense. Ahead of upcoming tours it is important to test out Rajesh Pawar in particular at the international level. Romesh Powar meanwhile deserves a spot for his continued good performance at the domestic level. With Kumble being an automatic choice, this means going in with three spinners and two seamers. As for the seamers, Zaheer, who has been belted around enough by the Bangla boys, could use a break. Munaf has proven that he has the wicket-taking ability. On the other hand, VRV does generate a fair amount of pace, which could prove as a good combination along with Munaf. With five bowlers in the playing eleven that leaves room for five batsmen plus Dhoni as the keeper. If Dravid has the “guts” to experiment, he should make some tough calls and not hesitate to “rest” one or more of the veterans. However, in all likelihood, the same veterans will turn up and amass centuries while the younger folk sit out the match.

My Guess of India’s Likely 11 (packed with batsmen and just four bowlers): Jaffer, Ganguly, VVS, Sachin, Dravid, Yuvraj, Dhoni, Kumble, Powar, Zaheer, Munaf. Twelfth Man: Karthik

Book Review: The Caged Virgin

Title: The Caged Virgin — An Emancipation Proclamation for Women & Islam
Author: Ayaan Hirsi Ali
Type: Non-fiction

The first thing that strikes you when you read this book is the author’s admirable courage and deep conviction. Influenced almost entirely by her personal life experiences, she takes on the entire world of Islam, head on! The author was born and raised in Somalia and eventually became a politician in the Netherlands. Having seen and experienced first-hand the challenges of growing up as a Muslim woman in deeply traditional surroundings in Somalia, she describes with great passion and bitterness (that lingers throughout the book), the brutality and oppression that women are subjected to in Islamic cultures. Parts of the book are autobiographical, but for the most part, it is a collection of essays.
The author was responsible for the script of the film “Submission,” which was made by Dutch film-maker, Theo Van Gogh, who was murdered by Muslim extremists. One chapter in the book covers the first version of the complete transcript of the film, while another chapter (entitled, “The Need for Self-Reflection within Islam”) is a response to criticism about the film. This chapter along with another chapter (entitled, “The Call for Clear Thinking”) are by far the most important chapters in the book as they capture the essence of the author’s stand against Islam. There is one chapter (entitled, “Ten Tips for Muslim Women Who Want to Leave”) directed exclusively at Muslim women who want to break free and take charge of their lives.

It’s almost impossible to argue with someone who has had first hand experiences of such extreme kind. At the same time one can’t help but notice the author’s impatience and a desire for quick, seemingly impractical, rapid fixes to the problem. Firstly, what is true of Somalian Muslim society might not necessarily hold true in the rest of the Muslim world. Besides, the author goes to wild extremes –“Name a single Muslim who had made a discovery in science or technology, or changed the world through artistic achievement. There is none.” She also blames Western Governments for not doing enough under the pretext of Multiculturalism. In general, there is a George Bush-like “thrust freedom and democracy down peoples’ throats” feel to the author’s stand and ideology, except that its directed towards Islam. It’s easy to offend a billion+ followers of a religion because of personal, traumatic life experiences, but to expect to fix it by taking it head on is no different from the failed US policy in Iraq.

I found the book quite repetitive. The same issues were alluded to over and over in different parts of the book. There are sections of the book that are are hard to appreciate fully without a better understanding of Dutch politics. Overall, I felt that the book could have been organized better with the two chapters mentioned above getting greater prominence in overall flow of the book. Maybe this had to do with the fact that the book was translated from Dutch.

There is no question that this book is a daring, life-risking effort by a woman who has lived through some very difficult experiences and yet managed to work her way up to a visible position. This in itself is commendable, and a book derived from such experiences, should make a worthwhile read. However, a word of caution before you read this book. If you are a progressive Muslim (one who can stand Islam taking more than a few hard punches), this is a must-read. If you are a Muslim who is easily offended, this book might be one to avoid. If you are a “Islamophobe” (I came across this term for the first time in this book!) you are sure to lap this up to further shore up your prejudices. If you are a non-Muslim, you’ll get a detailed exposure to the state of women in many Islamic cultures and a call to action from someone who has been through it all first hand.

Cricket: India Struggle

India managed to beat Bangladesh thanks to fine batting by Dhoni and Karthik. The strategy of sending Dhoni up the order was certainly a Ravi Shastri effect considering that this was never tried in the Chappell days. Dhoni has scored many of his big knocks either opening or at number 3 at the domestic level. So this was a good ploy, that actually worked. 

Mongia’s addition seems to have definitely strengthened the bowling department. Powar despite being expensive, clearly has the ability to take wickets unlike Harbhajan Singh. Zaheer Khan does not seem to have recovered from the belting he received from Bangladesh in the World Cup. India would do well to give him a rest and try RP Singh for the next ODI. At a minimum in his current form, he might break a nose or two! 🙂

In the hot and oppressive weather in Bangladesh, it might be best to focus on spin. This could mean bringing in Piyush Chawla for the next ODI in place of one of the seamers, possibly Sreesanth, since Munaf is a safer bet.

India’s opening combination is still a problem and is unikely to end until Sehwag is given a long rest. Bringing in Uthappa for Sehwag would be a good step, but its unlikely to happen given that both Shastri and Dravid appear to have endless faith in Sehwag.

Cricket: India Under Pressure

As India take on Bangladesh, the pressure will clearly be on India. New coach, minus Sachin and Ganguly, plenty of rumors about friction in the team, and the big loss in the World Cup, all combined, is bound to put Dravid and his boys under tremendous pressure. The Bangla boys on the other hand, have little to lose. If they win, they can claim that the world cup win was no fluke. On the other hand if they lose Bashar will attribute it to a poor show on the day, a slow start after a break etc.

With Shastri in charge, at a minimum, one can expect some reasonable control over the media and its endless speculation. But first, he and the rest of the team management will have to show some results. The pressure is going to be all around. An otherwise boring series might just turn out to be an interesting one!

MS To Acquire Yahoo: Two “Search” Losers Make a Winner?

Google is growing from strength to strength. A lucrative advertising industry is at stake. Yahoo’s Panama might have been an improvement over what Yahoo had before, but its in no way strong enough to pose a challenge to Google. Besides with the recent management exodus, the peanut butter memo-gate, the none to impressive quarterly results, and a shaky top management, Yahoo has hordes of challenges at hand.

As for Microsoft, their search and advertising strategy is simply way behind. It is struggling to get a foothold in this space and with each passing day, Google is expanding its presence and reach, thanks to its growing dominance of the search market. For an advertiser, the default choice is to advertise with the network that has the greatest audience. Moreover, once you start using Google Adwords and get familiar with it, you need something more compelling to change. It is almost like Microsoft’s hold over the desktop but certainly not there yet. But unless, the Yahoo-MS move fast, Google is going to be even harder to dislodge from a potentially huge advertising market.

So do two losers in the search and advertising market make a winner? Probably not. But at least it will pose a bigger challenge to Google, provided they can get over the integration issues that are likely to come with so much product/service overlap.

Check out stories on this news in the WSJ and the NY Times.