First, lets us look at the Spain situation for a moment. Given the current state of the world, terrorist attacks happen at various times, irrespective of whether the elections are there or not. Its very hard to say with certainty that Jose Aznar’s party in Spain was booted out of power because of the terrorist attack. The truth is that Jose Aznar led his country into the war against popular public opinion and this in itself could have resulted in the party loosing power. Once the blasts happened his party promptly blamed the ETA in a great hurry before realizing that they had little to do with the attack. This plus the fact that the Socialist party led by Jose Zapatero, had consistently been against the war and had committed to the withdrawal of Spanish troops, might well have widened the margin of defeat. But its unlikely that it changed the result of the election from possible victory to defeat for Aznar and his party.
–Report by Morgan Times Special Correspondent
Thanks to SCCC: On behalf of all the SCCC veterans, Morgan Times would like to thank the SCCC (particularly Shahab and co.) for organizing this event at short notice and making this a wonderful experience. We hope that the thrashing you received on the field will not be taken too seriously. We look forward to a follow on match later this summer after an extended period of intense healing on both sides — for us it will be our sore muscles, while for you, we appreciate the need to recover from a traumatic defeat at the quivering hands the “really old guys”. And now the gory details….
It was near perfect weather — the veterans had shown up on time (many of them in whites!), the outfield was full of grass (now that Bombay is in India, sounds like no one mows the outfield anymore!), TR, Shrikanth and Pradeep were tiring themselves out at the nets until someone reminded them that there is still a match to play — all in all a perfect setting for a wonderful game of cricket. On paper, the veterans team appeared extremely well balanced. The big question was about how much of that on-paper strength would translate into noteworthy performance on the field. Surprisingly, this potentially fictitious on-paper strength was enough to scare many of the current SCCC A and B players, who signed up but didn’t show up. While the SCCC veterans had 11-13 players, Shahab the SCCC captain was left scrambling to make a 11, thanks to many of the SCCC A and B players who “chickened out”. After some intense maneuvering, and the arrival of the “eternally late” Ram, the teams were formed, the SCCC team won the toss and elected to bat.
SCCC opened the innings with, “tough on wides while umpiring” Fazil and “powered by Malboro” Rajesh . The veterans chose to open the bowling with Naresh and Bharath. Man, this guy, Naresh, is a miracle. He hasn’t bowled in years, never cared to even bowl at the nets this morning, and yet was bang on target from the very first ball. He looked the same, not an ounce of extra fat, not a sign of rustiness, even his pants looked the same, except they had shrunk and now become shorts, and developed a yellow tinge. His line and length was immaculate and understandably he gave absolutely nothing away. He bowled about 5 overs in all, 4 in his first spell and one at the death, giving away a total of 5 runs for 2 wickets.
At the other end, the veterans started off with Bharath, who politely turned down subsequent overs after a first spell of 2 overs. Kiran, the veteran’s captain donned the keeping gloves with ease and rotated his bowlers so well that everyone including himself got a chance to bowl. Clearly, this was rotation at its best and true to its word. His philosophy was very simple, if you have started to bowl and still look like you can stand upright then you are good to continue bowling. After Bharath’s two over spell, Killer Krish was brought in. He promptly sent in a few sizzling shooters to announce his arrival. The more shoulder he put into the delivery, the greater the skidding effect. After a fiery spell of two overs, Kiran decided it was time to give the SCCC batsmen a respite from the intense sizzle. In fact, they were so unnerved by that spell that Krish had to be walked off the field and placed in charge of baby-sitting duties. He was then replaced by Altaf and Naresh was replaced by TR. Once again, two veterans who found their rhythm right way were steadily applying the breaks on the SCCC innings. Throughout the SCCC innings, the veterans kept a tight leash on the run rate. Runs came in a trickle, barring some fireworks from Ram who led a charmed life and Puneet, who struck a few blows at the very end.
The highlight of the SCCC innings was the fielding of Sourav — SCCC’s Spiderman. He grabbed three truly brilliant catches as substitute fielder. Its almost like he spins a web around any ball the travels in his vicinity and before your realize the ball is safely in his hands. This kid has some special powers or he has developed a strange knack of strapping welcro to his hands as and when needed. His entertaining display of fielding was brought to a premature end after Shahab politely reminded him that he better cool off if he has any aspirations of bowling during the veterans innings.
In the latter part of the SCCC innings, Babu essayed a brief, but impressive cameo as the keeper. Wickets fell from time to time and the SCCC innings wound up at 96 for 15 (the last 6 wickets can be attributed to Ammi (who was out about 4 times) and Puneeet (2)) in 40 overs.
SCCC Scores: (96 all out in 40 overs; Puneet 15, Ram 9, Shahab 8, Souav 3, Fazil 2, Rajesh 6, Ammi 2; Lbyes 2, byes 1, wides – 13);
The veterans opened with Bharath and Shrikanth. The strategy was for Shrikanth to steady one end while Bharath slowly but surely unleashes his conventional “shock and awe” therapy. The SCCC opening bowlers Puneet and Rajeev had meanwhile worked out a strategy of their own. While Puneet would focus on moving the ball both ways, Rajeev would interspere his gentle TLC (tender loving care) deliveries with some deceptive full tosses and super-slower ones. As it turned out the shock factor was certainly there, though one of an unintended kind, as an “halwa” of a delivery from Rajeev, crashed into Bharath stumps. The veterans were clearly off to a bad start.
Altaf and Shrikanth steadied things and started to step up the run rate. In fact, emboldened by the fact that his loose pants (see Sidelights at the end of this report) were now held firmly in place in the midst of protective gear, Altaf launched into some exciting stroke play and just when he looked certain to tear the SCCC bowlers to shreds he was caught by Puneet of Sam. At the other end Shrikanth continued to score at a steady pace. SCCC picked up three more wickets that of Shrikanth, Pran and TR and the veterans were at 50+ at the half way mark. Shrikanth top-scored for the veterans with a fine knock of 21. Then, Radha and Pradeep came together for an entertaining partnership that carried the veterans score close to the winning total. Finally, a tired Pradeep was stumped for a well made 17. Radha scored a fine 20 before he ran himself out just like old times. Then, Kiran, Bharath and Babu had a final go at the SCCC bowlers in the remaining overs. By this time the match was already won, but overs remained, our statisticians were off the hook, and everyone sat back and enjoyed some cool fireworks, particularly from Bharath.
Babu made an ambitious attempt to challenge Ammi Amarnath, and was successfully out a handful of times, but was unable to meet Ammi’s consistency and precision in getting out. For SCCC, Ashok enjoyed a good day behind the stumps and was instrumental in a couple of stumpings and run outs, while Puneet bowled 9 of the 40 overs in an attempt to restrain the veterans. Fazil, Sam, Ram, Rajesh, Shahab, Imran, and Sourav formed the rest of the SCCC bowling attack, which was tortured by the really old guys.
98 in 33 overs; Bharath 3, Shrikanth 21, Altaf 9, Pran 7, TR 6, Radha 20, Pradeep 17, Kiran 5, Wides 6, LByes 4;
ProCricket: Did you ever think that you could play cricket in the US and get paid for it? Well, that dream of yours can now become a reality and the man you need to play up to us none other than our near and dear, Laks Sampath, SCCC’s answer to Jagmohan Dalmiya. While speaking with MT correspondent earlier this week, Laks was repeatedly interrupted by frenetic aspirants vying for a berth in the procricket circuit. For more info, check out http://www.procricket.com. For fast-track access to Laks, please make a generous donation to the MT Global Peace Fund.
My God, where’s my guard!: Naresh padded up to open the innings with Bharath, then realized that he didn’t have abdomen guards to wear. He thought for while, (and even looked around to see if there might be anyone willing to share — we are not sharing, nana-nana-naa-naa, you guys are mean!) — and decided it ain’t worth it, despite the intense desire of the veterans to win.
What do I catch?: Ram skied a Radha delivery hard and high to the deep mid-wicket area. Altaf covered a lot of ground and managed to get completely under the ball. However, he was caught in an unusual predicament and left with only an unfortunatte split second to make a decision. Years of not having taken a catch had taken its toll on this veteran. He was so excited at the thought of latching on to one, that his pants started to drop! He could hold on to his pants and save himself the embarrassment or kiss his pants goodbye and latch on to the catch. To the dissappointment of the other veterans, he chose to grab his pants over what might have resulted in a truly outstanding catch.
Look me in the eye, wil’ ya: The Ram-Sam duo while at the crease were heard discussing whether to resort to the age old SCCC trick of eye contact for singles as opposed to the more practical yet relatively tactless “calling for runs”. Ram reminded Sam, “With your helmet on, I can’t see your eyes!”.
Can I raise my finger!: Ammi Amarnath broke all previous records for the number of times one could be out in an innings. He was first caught, then bowled, then caught, then bowled, then bowled….until umpire Brotherman cried, “Please stick your pads in front, I want to have the pleasure of giving someone out!”.
Match fixing: No match involving cricketers from the Indian subcontinent is complete without cries of match fixing. To be fair to the accusers, there were a number of players seen talking on cell phones while right on the field!! (Babu and Sam to name a couple). When asked about this the veterans skipper countered, “Boss, gimme a break, did you see the number of times Babu and Ammi got out? Do you think we can ever fix that? That’s the kind of rare talent (or lack thereof!) that even money can’t buy!” (One of the players who was seen talking on the cell phone, later confessed over margaritas that he was actually convincing his wife that he was at work)
Urban India Shining, Common Man Suffering, BJP Reeling, Cong Surviving And Some Trivia
Urban India Shining: Its a hot job market in the IT sector, call centers and other areas driven by the sharp influx of multinational companies. Employee turn over is as high as 50% and salaries are growing by the day. Large Western Style malls have started to appear in the big cities. Forum and Bangalore Central are two such examples based in Bangalore. Large US style apartment complexes, packed with US returned families is common place, particularly in Bangalore. Unlike in the past, you can now see a number of foreigners (not tourists) on the roads of Bangalore. Almost everyone carries a cell phone these days and this market is here to grow. City roads are full of flyovers almost like going over speed breakers in school zone. Traffic congestion is a nightmare in most leading cities, particularly Banglore and Bombay. Kolkata was congested even before the IT boom. 🙂 Internet connection in India now easily available. Dial-up connection takes less than 5 minutes to setup and costs about Rs. 20 per hour. There are hordes of Internet cafes and cable/DSL is readily available in most leading cities.
Common Man Suffering: The general cost of living has gone up quite a bit, leaving the common man in the midst of a severe cash crunch. Rents have more than doubled in the past few years, cost of power, labor, travel etc has all gone up. On the one hand you find restaurants that charge hundreds of rupees for a single dish, packed with people, on the other you have farmers committing suicide because they are unable to meet their expenses and the monsoons have failed to turn up.
BJP Reeling: The former ruling party is in the midst of serious crisis. The party is acting like it was hit by a “fierce Jeff Thompson bouncer”. In other words, its wobbling around looking for something to hang on to. Vajpayee wanted to fire Modi and lead the party overall into a more moderate persona. However, the threats from RSS, VHP and other hardliners within the party forced the leadership to sway more towards its roots — the so called Hindutva platform. Given Vajpayee’s inability to dump Modi and to prevent the push for a hardline hindutva platform, the aging Vajpayee seems to clearly be on his way out. If the current govt. lasts beyond 6-8 months it might be curtains for the veteran BJP leader and former PM.
Congress Surviving: The Congress led by Manmohan Singh from the outside and Sonia from the inside, is managing to survive. This inside-outside formula, if this govt. survives, could actually develop into a new dynamic in Indian politics. An ideal arrangement is one were the party President is extremely powerful and deals primarily with other coalition partners, while govt. and public policy is set and executed by more knowledgeable individuals (a la Manmohan Singh, Chidambaram, Natwar Singh etc.)
The next BIG thing for the govt. is the new budget which is due to be announced this month. The contradictions within the coalition are yet to create any major tensions. Ironically, what is likely to keep these coalition members together is not so much their love for one another but their dislike for their common enemy — BJP. Most people I talked to seemed to think that this govt. is unlikely to last not more than 6 months to a year!
Lastly, our cricketers are everywhere from the TV to the billboards, you can’t miss them. Tendulkar, Dravid and Sehwag being the most commonly seen faces. A new season and the associated craze is scheduled to begin later this month. Euro cup was actively followed and with cable TV this telecast is reaching out to more people in India than ever before.
After a long break, Director Mani Ratnam retuns to hindi cinema with Yuva, a movie starring Abhishek Bacchan, Rani Mukherjee, Ajay Devgan, Esha Deol, Vivek Oberoi and Kareena Kapoor. The film is about three young men (and their sweet hearts, of course) and how their lives get intertwined by a series of events (inspiration at this level obviously drawn from Teen Dewarein, Dil Chahta Hai). Without getting into details about the weak story line here is a review of the various aspects of the film.
The movie scores highly on technicalities (photography, lighting etc.) but has several weak weather-beaten characters, many of whom can simply be “cut and paste” from scores of other films. Given three heroes and three heroines, the obsession with technical finesse, the commitment to masala aspects like song and dance, and fights, Director Mani Ratnam finds little time to explore the characters and their motivations. He appears to be caught up in a constant dilemma between “Message and Masala”. The underlying message is that young people must get involved in politics and help fix the country, while the masala includes 5-6 songs, the troika of heroes and heroines, and a stereotypical villain (portrayed as a politician, of course) and a handful of thugs.
Ajay Devgan plays the role of student leader. Ajay Devgan as a college student? Give me a break! This was a perfect opportunity for the Director to introduce a young newcomer who truly fit the role (like Vivek Oberoi first appeared in Company) rather than going with the star du jour irrespective of whether he fit the role or not. To mobilize an entire student group, win a series of elections and stand up to a bunch of political goondas is no mean task. For a young college student to achieve this requires a deep convictions and strong beliefs, neither of which were ever explored by the director. Ajay Devgan and Esha Deol somehow don’t seem to gel well as a couple (this is a highly personal view). Moreover, why and how they came together is a mystery that was never explained.
Abhishek Bacchan will have to wait beyond Yuva for his elusive hit film. He does a decent job as the tough guy. Unfortunately, we have seen identical tough guys in umpteen hindi films. In other words, the role has nothing new to offer and there is not much Abhishek can do beyond going through the motions. Rani Mukherjee handles her stereotypical “will always support my husband” role with aplomb. One can easily find this character in so many hindi films. So a complete waste of her talents.
Vivek Oberoi as Arjun (seemingly inspired by Amir Khan in Dil Chahta Hai) and Kareena as his sweetheart are the best of the three couples. Kareena in casual dresses with minimal make-up comes across refreshingly different from her roles in other films. Vivek Oberoi does a nice job as the aspiring US immigrant. Anant Nag as Arjun’s dad has a perennial “what am I doing here” expression. Another waste of a good actor.
Om Puri, again a “cut and past” character. I am starting to sound like a stuck record! Even the romantic sequences between each of the three couples are very very similar — aggressive hugging and kissing, hero carries sweetheart, chases her around, they fall and roll over each other etc. Mani Ratnam appears to have lost one of his strong skills — attention to detail (partly visbile in the relationship between Arjun and his younger brother).
Lastly it is a mystery as to why the movie is set in Kolkata. Barring Om Puri’s occasional fake, dismal Bengali accent, there is absolutely nothing in the film that warrants being based in Kolkata. The final stunts sequences in the midst of the traffic on Howrah bridge is completely senseless. A more beleivable (sufficiently different) end to the film might have been one where, Ajay Devgan and Abhishek’s characters are eliminated by violence while Arjun kisses good-bye to his political aspirations and heads off to the US!
Rahman’s music is nothing to write home about. Some of the songs might become interesting after listening to them a few times. Certainly nothing memorable to a first time listener.
In short, this is a “time pass” film. The biggest disappointment of the film is the director himself. In an attempt to blend message with masala, the Director delivers a concoction that won’t put you to sleep, but won’t make you stand up and take notice either. Its sad to see the constant deterioration of Mani Ratnam’s films.
French President Jacque Chirac recently said:
“Democracy is not a method; it’s a culture, Reform is not imposed from the outside. It is accomplished from the inside.” See the full report report
This is a very sensible comment from the French. I only wish they had pursued this line of argument to oppose the war in Iraq at an earlier date. They have further emphasized that democracy can’t be achieved in the Middle East without solving the Arab-Israeli conflict. Focusing on solving this conflict is the most sensible thing leading world nations can do rather than identifying a target list of rogue nations, axis of evil etc. and going around invading them. Given the mess that has been created in the middle east, thanks to the current US administration, its painful but true that this mess can be fairly easily re-created given the right framework. So here goes…
Throw in a bit of religion if you care for any and your own “Middle East Mess” is ready.
I took a day trip to San Diego to check out Design Automation Conference 2004’s exhibits on Mon 6/7. The best part about the travel is that the convention center is barely 10 min away from the airport. As expected there were so many DAC visitors on the plane that I piled on with three others on a taxi ride!
Lastly, I shook hands with Art de Geus, Synopsys CEO when he came by to meet my publisher (I happened to be talking with him). I also shook hands with the Cadence CTO, Ted Vucurevich (again, I happened to be talking with an old acquaintance at the Cadence booth). My moment of glory and brush with fame, ladies and gentlemen! …..it’s all about time and place 🙂