Kumble Should be Coach Cum Captain

Sounds like Gary Kirsten has the job of coach. It also sounds like the BCCI went to the other end of the spectrum after Greg Chappell. If Gary’s cricketing style and career are a measure of his nature then its likely that India have found a dogged, committed, hard-working individual. However, it might just be a case of “good guy, bad timing”

The question that does come to mind. Does Team India really need a coach at this stage?

India has won the T20 and appears to be going strong in this form of the game. Likewise on the Test front India under Kumble has started to perform well. The ODI team under Dhoni also appears to be under fair bit of control. Robin Singh and Venkatesh Prasad are already around to focus on specific areas of the game.

Then why bother with a new coach at this stage?

Under these circumstances it might have been best to appoint Kumble as both Coach and Captain. This way, he gets to hang out and bond with the younger folks who play the other forms of the game. Kumble can certainly add as much value if not more than Kirsten himself. Adding Kirsten to the mix especially at a time when things are going fairly well for India might be a needless complication.

It all boils down to continuing lack of professionalism on the part of BCCI.

It is highly possible that Gary Kirsten took the job without even meeting the other stalwarts in the team besides the captain. While it might sound like being beyond the scope of normal procedure, it makes sense for him to have done this. Given the god-like status of someone like Tendulkar, it makes a lot of sense for Kirsten to have chatted with Sachin (and possibly the David, Ganguly, Dhoni) before taking the job of coach even if the BCCI did not facilitate this. One can only hope that he did.

Republican CNN-Youtube debate

A typical Republican debate serving plenty of “red-meat”. A few testy exchanges for entertainment. Questions in the form of goofy videos. Annoying sounds of cheering and booing by the crowd. Another debate in a format I like less and less off.

One questioner, turned up in the audience for a follow up to his video question! This I thought was pretty cool. Unfortunately, the issue he raised (Gays in the military) and the responses he received were not even close.

Setback for Romney

This debate was a big blow for Mitt Romney. His business-like approach to politics completely failed. When asked about “gays in the military” he said he would let the generals decide. When asked asked about water-boarding being torture he said he would take the advice of Generals and others including McCain. Very often he was struggling for words and clearly didn’t answer the questions.

If you think about his responses, these are typical of a classic deal-maker. He listens carefully to all the parties involved, then figures out what works best and then sells it to all and sundry. No principles, no convictions, pure deals. Period. It is no surprise that the man is flip-flopped on a bunch of issues. If there anything he stands for, it is for getting the job done, whatever it might be! Since its hard to run and win a race by being honest about this, he has taken the typical business approach of researching all the issues and their histories, studying the impact of the various positions, and arriving at the optimal winning strategy. So far his leads in the polls indicate that it has worked. However, this debate clearly, left him exposed. (IMHO, that he should be made in charge of Middle East peace efforts, and please, not the presidency!)

The Others

The other candidate who I thought faired poorly was Fred Thomson. His responses simply lacked spirit and energy. In fact, for someone who is so familiar with facing the camera, he seemed completely lost.

Guliani as usual attempted to tie everything to 9-11 and Islamic terrorism, while Ron Paul links everything to the Iraq war. Ron did throw in an interesting data point about Iraq war (I didn’t catch the exact quote. It was something about getting a lot of contributions from war veterans!)

The Winners

The two candidates who I thought did well were John McCain and Mike Huckabee. While John McCain’s personal qualities and convictions bring out the best in him when least expected, Mike Huckabee uses his seasoned speaking talents to win hearts. He is clearly the best campaigner of the lot and might just spring a surprise.

Best Line

To me, the best line of the evening was when Ron Paul said his campaign was receiving so much money they did not know what to do with it!

Middle East Peace: Another photo-op

Seems familiar? This was in the 2000 time frame. Bill Clinton made a last ditch effort to bring peace to the Middle East and failed. Bush & co. took over and promptly criticized Clinton’s attempt.

Check out yesterday’s photo-op! Different players, trying to settle the same issues. After seven years of more death and violence, its back to square one. The Middle East is clearly worse off than it was seven years back. All three leaders in their current state are much weaker than their predecessors. The only motivating factor right now seems to be George Bush’s desire for a legacy.
When is America going to make a concerted effort to broker genuine Middle East peace? A good starting point would be to not wait until 2011 or 2015 (when Hillary or Obama are getting ready to phase out) for the next photo-op!

Barack Obama @Google


Check out this video of Senator Barack Obama’s visit to Google. There is a part where he says, “Why bother, I might as well go work for Google” while responding to a question about why he was running for office. I thought that was pretty funny. Overall, he seemed at ease throughout and spoke well. From the audience response it sure sounds like he is popular in this part of the country.

Great Start for Kumble, Karthick on the Chopping Block?

India under Kumble did well to win the first Test against arch rivals, Pakistan. Kumble’s wickets in both innings, his decent batting performance, followed by his use of Ganguly’s bowling talents were clearly his personal highlights of the match. He understandably won the Man of the Match award. The great news for India was that it was an all round performance by the team. Wasim Jaffer’s innings in the second innings in particular was commendable (not to take away credit from the others who are all seasoned contributors!). It is great to see Jaffer’s cool and composed approach to Shoaib Akthar’s genuine fast bowling.

Karthick weak link? 

Dinesh Karthick’s failure in both innings is bound to raise some questions. While its true that he has scored a lot of runs this year, never before has he been tested by genuine quick bowling. All his Test runs have been scored against Bangladesh and an English team minus its top bowlers. Secondly, until now, Karthick has hardly ever opened the innings even for his home state of Tamil Nadu. Unfortunately, the Indian selectors have a track record of destroying many players by forcing them to open the innings in Test matches. It makes little sense to continue this experiment at the Test level when a regular opener like Gautam Gambhir is in such prime form. The left-right combination at the top of the order will add some variety to the batting as well.

Karthick is an ideal ODI and T20 player for the second half of the overs. He is better equipped at innovative stroke play than conventional technically sound batting, which is what is required in Test cricket. Along with his excellent fielding and backup wicket keeping abilities he makes a versatile addition to the T20/ODI team.

It is fair to continue to try Karthick in Tests based on his success this past year. But the move to try him as an opener was the wrong one in the first place. It would be great to see him succeed against the likes of Shoaib Akhtar and Umar Gul, but I don’t believe the odds are high.

The sad news for Karthick is that if he fails in the remaining Tests, he might find himself out of all three teams. He has already been dropped from the ODI team and did not make it to the T20 playing eleven. With Dhoni in-charge in these two forms of the game, Karthick might be running out of time. Ironically, if he retains his place in the Test team with a good innings or two in this series, he might bolster his case for a place in the other two teams!

Movie Review: Om Shanti Om

Title: Om Shanti Om
Language: Hindi
Starring: Shahrukh Khan, Deepika Padukone, Arjun Pampal

It is hard to capture the story of this film because there isn’t quite one to write about! It is quite a nonsensical mish-mash of events, interspersed with many songs, a few fights and plenty of clowning around. If you are in the mood for a typical Bollywood fare in a “I won’t question anything” state of mind, then this movie is “your type”. There is lots of “goofy” stuff to keep you entertained and laughing, though at the end of the day all of it makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. (If you are one of those who just said “That’s what Bollywood films are all about anyway”, then this movie beats even such critics by a very huge margin.)

Shahrukh Khan is perfectly at home clowning around throughout the film. Deepika Padukone is a pretty face (and noticeably taller than the hero) and does a decent job in her first Hindi film. Arjun Rampal as the villain does justice to his role. The movie is based on Bollywood itself and so there is an endless parade of movie stars and film personalities to engage the film crazy audience. The scenes involving them are particularly funny, especially the Filmfare awards. Akshay Kumar appears in a brief funny cameo which was adapted straight out of an unknown Hollywood film but widely viewed on youtube.

Vishal Shekhar’s music is trendy. Dard-e-Disco which has a middle eastern tune (with a belly-dancing type of beat) sung by Sukvinder is a catchy number. Main Agar Kahoon, a typical Hindi duet and Ajab Si also belong to the “hit variety”.

At the end of the film (when the names are shown) every single person (including spot boys and other technicians involved with the film) whose name was listed actually appeared on the screen. A nice new touch, that I have never seen before.

I suspect that despite early media reports this film is not as big a hit as Shahrukh Khan’s earlier hit films. Tickets were available despite it being the long weekend and though the film is only a week or two old. The film is a spoof on Bollywood and to appreciate it you really have to be aware of Bollywood in the 70s and 80s. The younger generation of movie goers are unlikely to catch the subtle humor based on Bollywood’s past that is visible throughout the film.

Farah Khan, seems to revel in “hard-core masala films”. This one was clearly worse off on the masala scale than her earlier film, Main Hoon Na. As for Shahrukh Khan, after Chak de India, this film was clearly at the other end of the spectrum.

Overall, a goofy light hearted film which is bound to produce a fair share of laughs.

Hillary Slipping Up?

As the Iowa race draws close there is no question that Senator Obama is giving his Senate colleague a run for her money. She seems to have clearly slipped up on more than a few issues of late.

Firstly, the issue of “should we or should we not talk to leaders of Iran (and other such unfriendly states)” It sure sounds that her claims that it was a naive on the part of Sen. Obama to say so has back fired. By responding that it is “Bush-like” behavior, Mr. Obama has turned this in his favor, further reinforcing himself as the true candidate of change. 

Next, the issue of experience. Mr. Obama has once again turned this around by stating that “no one had more experience the Rumsfeldt and Cheney”. During a recent visit to Silicon Valley he cleverly improvised this further by stating that “Sergey and Larry” didn’t have the experience yet built a Fortune 100 company!

Most recently, the issue of Senator Obama having lived abroad as a child has come up. Senator Clinton said that living broad as a child doesn’t qualify as foreign policy experience. Once again Senator Obama appears to have turned this around by stating (and quite rightly so) that “If you don’t understand these cultures then it’s very hard for you to make good foreign policy decisions. Foreign policy is all about judgment.”

In short, it appears as though Senator Clinton is having a hard time finding issues to pick against her opponent and when she does, it seems to help his case more than hurt him. Earlier in the race, it looked like Senator Clinton would be impossible to beat with her 20+ points lead in National polls. But this is fast fading, and the man with “Audacity of Hope” might just spring a surprise.

Kumble Makes a Firm Start

Anil Kumble is easily one of India’s most valuable players yet least spoken about cricketers. His opportunity to lead India has finally come about after a long haul of 17 years. Head and shoulders above the rest in terms of experience and age, it is unfortunate that he had to wait this long to be give the job of captaining Team India. It is too early to predict how he will perform on the field as captain, but if you were to observe his initial statements he comes across as one of the most confident and self-assured players to take on the job in recent times.

Never in the recent past has a captain been so forthright and candid about team composition. His comment about Yuvraj is commendable not so much for the merit of the decision but the mindset that drove the comment. The only other country where this happens is in Australia, where seasoned, experienced players are given the support needed while youngsters have to wait and pay their dues before they can make it to the team on a permanent basis. With this one statement Kumble should have earned further support and confidence of the seniors while sending youngsters a clear message that each slot in the team has to be earned, and that some time this might require an extra wait period. He also went on to add that in the near future the Indian batting will revolve around Yuvraj. This should give Yuvraj some consolation and continued hunger for the Test spot.

Final ODI: Time to Experiment and Not Indulge in Half-Measures

If press reports are to be believed (TOI announced that Dhoni was going to be named captain, while it turned out to be Kumble) it appears that India is ready to experiment in the last ODI. There is no question that this is a great opportunity to explore some new talent. It is important to take this experiment all the way without half measures. Experimenting with a Rohit Sharma in the middle order and opening the innings with Tendulkar in such prolific form makes little sense. Including young players in the team is of use only if they are given full exposure. 

As for the rest of then team, Sehwag who should consider himself lucky to be in the team must be given a chance to redeem himself at the top of the order, Gambhir could return to his opening slot, Uthappa could be promoted back to his number 3 position, followed by Rohit Sharma. Lastly, India would do well to revert back to the five bowler combination because ultimately India needs five bowlers including an all-rounder (Irfan Pathan) to be able to win consistently. This means India would do well to rest Sachin, Ganguly, RP Singh, and Zaheer Khan for this game.

Ideal 11 for the last ODI:

Gambhir, Sehwag, Uthappa, Rohit Sharma, Yuvraj, Dhoni, Pathan, Karthik, Sreesanth, Praveen Kumar, Harbhajan Singh.