Monday, July 5, 2010

Football Dream Team: 95/96 - 05/06

It’s the football season. Every four years, whether you know football or not, you are part of the frenzy that takes over the world. Football is the true world sport played almost in every country in of the world.

I moved to the United States four years back, you know the place where they play soccer with their feet and football with their hands, and stopped doing something that I had done for the last 10 years -follow world football. For ten years from 1995-96 to 2005-06, I had followed every damn league in the world. Remember the program called ‘Futbol Mundial’ which should weekly highlights from all over the world; I was one of the people who watched it. With the world cup this year, I went back four years and tried to recollect all the players who were part of my life for over ten years. Then I decided to make my “Team of the decade 96/96 – 05/06”
I haven’t used any statistics for naming the team; it is just people who I admired and tried to emulate. So here I go.


Peter Schmeichel: No. 1 (GK)

Voted the world’s best goal keeper, he is the man I choose to guard my posts. He was simply amazing, guarded his goal like a safe, attacked when there was a dead ball situation, yelled at his teammates and thoroughly imposed himself on the game. The Great Dane rallied his team and motivated them, a member of the ‘Treble’ winning Man U team. Who can forget a gleefully cartwheeling Schmeichel in Nou Camp. I chose the above picture simply because I cannot forget the maverick yelling at Dennis Irwine, Jaap Stam and Co.

Reserve Goal Keepers:

Gianluigi Buffon and Iker Casillas:
These two would make to many people’s dream team; but they have to warm the bench here. Modern greats who have made goal keeping as popular as goal scoring, true champions. Casillas is now the Spanish International team captain. I guess it is just that I have picked one each from the three best leagues in the world. I was very tempted to add Peter Czech. But he can wait and be in the list for the next decade.

Starting Defenders:

Paolo Cesare Maldini: No. 3(CD)

The legendary No. 3 from Milan. My team’s captain, the player I admire the most for his ability to stay calm on the field and showing the way of how football has to be played. The greatest defender I have seen to date and the unluckiest. He retired from Italy trophyless and it was ironic that they won the 2006 World Cup, no player deserved it more. With Maldini in central defense, it will be very hard for any attack in the world to breach it. I debated with myself to play him as left back or central defense and decided on the latter.

John Terry: No. 26 (I am going in with their Club Numbers) (CD)
He might not have played for major part of the decade, but still a rock solid defender and a goal scorer from dead ball situations. He is as solid as they come at central defence. I feel he will have a wonderful partnership with Maldini. A future captain for this team and a guy whom you can bet on giving 100% for the team. Watching a porcupine haired Terry jumping and fighting for the ball is a sight to behold.

Roberto Carlos No. 6 (LB)

A left back who runs ahead and doubles up as a winger and then also takes highly ridiculous physics defying free kicks. He defended well, passed better and took the best free kicks save for Beckham. I used to be at my wits end when I saw him play. Literally wanted to yell, go back you are a defender. But he managed to go back and that was his greatness.

Gary Neville No. 2 (RB)
This might be the first contentious choice. But, then again he was in the ‘Treble’ team of 1999. To be very fair, he is a great defender and one who has an excellent record as right back. Never seen anyone throw better than him. Carlos has a good throw but if Neville is around, we know where the ball is going for throw-ins.

Reserve Defenders:

Fabio Cannavaro No. 5 (CD):
Probably unfair that he is on the bench. But it is my team you know.

Jaap Stam No. 6 (CD): Once again a member of the ‘Treble’ team. A Dutchman whom I saw defending an open goal against two forwards.

Gianluca Zambrotta No. 15 (RB): One more from the Italian stables. I wonder how they keep producing them.

Gabriel Heinze No. 19 (LB): Another attacking left back.

Starting Mid Fielders

Ryan Giggs No. 11 (LW):
I feel he would have given Usain Bolt a run for his money. That fast he was, and mind you, with the ball at his feet. A winger par excellence who unfortunately didn’t have that much of an international career. He is from Wales .. ha ha ! From inch perfect cross to running back and giving the defence the required support, he did it all. Also, he could take excellent free kicks and corners.

David Beckham No. 07 (RW):
Probably the best known face in the football world. No one could hit those Millimeter perfect free kicks and crosses. Such was his powers that he made Dwight Yorke look like the best forward in the world. He is definitely my favorite player. There wasn’t a position he wouldn’t be in a match, he covered for everyone. Other than being the best free kick taker in the world, he is also an excellent playmaker, something he isn’t credited enough for.

Zinedine Zidane No. 10 (CMF)

Who else but Zizu? Probably, the most naturally gifted of the lot, a genius who could do anything on the football field. A man who practically won every possible trophy there is. I have never seen anyone with better ball control. I have a feeling he could control the ball with his behind better than most player could with their feet.

Pavel Nedved No. 11 (CMF)
The man who replaced Zizu in Juventus, will partner him in central mid field. Possessed with great speed and a hawks vision to penetrate the narrowest of gaps in opposition defenses, this great Czech mid fielder could change the tempo of the match single handedly.

Reserve Mid Fielders

Luis Figo No. 07 (RW): Can’t believe I am keeping him on the bench, but such is the quality of the team.

Marc Overmars No.11 (LW): Even though he played for Arsenal; he is on this list. Just goes to show how great he is.

Frank Lampard No. 8 (CMF):
Modern great and excellent playmaker.

David Ginola No. 11 (CMF): Surprise element in the team. Could cut through defenses like a hot knife through butter: a French tribute.

Starting Forwards

Ronaldo No. 9 (CF)

What can be said about the guy who has the highest number of world cup goals ever? No one has scored so many goals and the way he scored left one and all speechless. He could dribble, set up goals and score with such brute force that defences crumbled, literally. I never quite understood how a bulldozer of a man can also possess such silken touches-a true example of Samba football.

Dennis Berkamp No. 10(Second Striker)
Playing just behind the main striker he could manufacture goals out of nothing. Quick on his feet and his ability to change direction makes him a dangerous striker. He could visualize the game and always invariably arrive at the right place for the pass. One of the finest gentlemen every to have graced the game.

Reserve Forwards

Rivaldo No. 10 (CF): A maverick, a superstar and a juggernaut. He was everything, from a bicycle kick specialist to taking free kicks. Hard to keep him on bench.

Gianfranco Zola No. 25 (Second Striker):
A man who never got his due!

This concludes my 23 men squad for the decade starting ‘95-‘96. I might be biased towards EPL- based players; but then it is my list. I have opted for a 4-4-2 line- up. Do let me know your 11 for the same period.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Socialism - Romanticizing Poverty

Often my father and I debate on socialism and its influence on India. Constitution of India defines the Union of India to be a sovereign, socialist, secular and democratic republic. I feel the term ‘socialist’ has no place in this definition as we aren’t one any longer. To me socialism is just a theory and a flawed one at that! It can never succeed in any democratic economy. My father being a ‘Nehruvian’ would beg to differ but I present here a small experiment conducted by a university economics professor in the US, to give a hint of what happens in a socialistic democracy. I am not going to get into the pros and cons of capitalism and socialism and will just present this short experiment.

The professor said that he had never failed a single student before, but had once failed an entire class. That class had insisted that socialism worked as a system and that no one would be poor and no one would be rich--- a great equalizer.

The professor then said, "OK, we will conduct an experiment on socialism. All grades would be averaged and everyone would receive the same grade, so no one would fail and no one would receive an ‘A’.” After the first test, the grades were averaged and everyone got a B. The students who had studied hard were upset and the students who had studied little were happy.

As the second test rolled around, the students who studied little had studied even less and the ones who studied hard decided they wanted a free ride too and worked less. The second test average was a D! No one was happy. The average in the 3rd test was F. The scores never increased and bickering, blame game and name-calling started resulting in hard feelings. No one wanted to study for the benefit of the other.

Everyone failed, to their great surprise, and the professor then told them that socialism would also ultimately fail because when the reward is great, the effort to succeed is great but when government takes all the reward away, no one will try or want to succeed.

To put it in more formal words I quote the Late Dr. Adrian Rogers; “You cannot legislate the poor into freedom by legislating the industrious out of it. You don't multiply wealth by dividing it. Government cannot give anything to anybody that it doesn't first take from somebody else. Whenever somebody receives something without working for it, somebody else has to work for it without receiving. The worst thing that can happen to a nation is for half of the people to get the idea they don't have to work because somebody else will work for them, and the other half to get the idea that it does no good to work because they don't get to enjoy the fruits of their labor”.

Socialism as a theory seems great and just, but it is impractical and studded with many flaws. It leads to other evils plaguing our country like reservation etc. I wish to conclude by saying that the greatest injustice a government can do is to treat unequals as equals.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

IPL – King of all Cricket Tournaments

Is the IPL obsessed with royalty? Looking at the names of the teams we have, it looks like it. I am trying to explore what went through the owners’ mind while naming their teams. Five out of the eight teams are either Kings or Royals of one or the other kind.

Let me start with Bangalore. The Royal Challengers Bangalore, this is an obvious one. The industrial barrel, I mean Baron Dr Mallya, named the team after his premium brand Royal Challenge or RC liquor. If we go by the actual wordings of the name, Royal Challengers, we might interpret it in two ways. One, they are Royals and are challenging the others or they are challenging royalty. The second one is more apt as anyway 75% of the teams are either Royals or kings anyway. Personally I would have preferred if he had named the team “Bangalore Kingfishers”. Still notice the King in kingfisher. It would have been really cool, like Miami Dolphins or St. Louis Rams. Frankly I expected more flamboyance from Mallya, no doubt he hired Katrina Kaif and now Deepika Padukone as the “Cheerleaders” but it’s Mallya we are talking about here. I won’t be surprised if he builds a new stadium and includes all the people in the stadium for his after IPL party.

Second, we will come to Chennai Super Kings. There is something with Tamilians and the word Super. Maybe it’s to do something with Rajnikant. Rajni is “Super Star”, which means he is God. So anything with Super in its name is a sure shot hit. But, why Super Kings? Again this obsession with royalty. If left to me, I would have named it Chennai Super Rascalas (Chennai being our traditional rivals has got nothing to do with the name). If you visit the CSK wiki site they have mentioned the name was kept keeping in mind that Chennai always had kings who were warriors and hence the name, they also add that the addition of Super gives it a youthful touch. The rest of the country never had any warriors? Only Chennai had warriors, I guess so. At leat they didn’t name it Anna Tamil Cement Madari Strong Team (ATCMST).

Kings XI Punjab! Preity Zinta is one of the 4 owners of the team. Still she is seen in the dugout in the press conference and we even see her hugging anything and anyone with a King XI jersey. So coming back to the name, do they mean everyone who plays for Punjab is a king or have we missed an apostrophe? Meaning it is owned by Kings. The way they are playing nowadays; they should be called Beggars XI Punjab. To top it, they have a prince in the team, Yuvraj. Though nowadays it’s tough to distinguish between Yuvraj and Ramesh Powar. Seriously, a more apt name would have been Chandigargh/Mohali Lions. Lions because, Yuvraj’s father oft says “Mera beta Sher hai” or “Sher ka baccha ghas nahi katha”. Or keeping in mind their performance - Priety Zinta’s behanji team.

pic courtesy

Rajasthan Royals. I have nothing against them except for its 12% owner and her business partner cum husband, in that order and the sorry excuse of a sister. Basically owners shouldn’t be in the dugout or try to be bigger than cricket. But, film stars with little or no careers need some screen time and hence we see Preity and Shilpa on screen. I feel they are the coolest team and have the coolest guy on planet as their captain and coach. But, their name leaves much to be desired. Desert Stormers or something like that would have made it way cooler and eye catching.

A professional stunt man or a blind super hero? Daredevils can be either of the two. Delhi Daredevils is owned by GMR group, one of the least seen owners. The name looks ok; I feel they tried to mean they are mean guys ready to fight out of any situation, a kind of mavericks. But, they should have dug deeper into what or who a daredevil is. The point being it doesn’t have the “cool” factor. They could have got some history involved or been innovative. Mind you it a pretty good name. Going by the city’s (Delhi) reputation the name should have been Delhi Arrogants.

Deccan Chargers. Nothing much to write about them, owned by a media group who publish among others South India’s best selling English newspaper Deccan Chronicle. It’s sad that they don’t even have their home ground nowadays. But they have goofed up in one aspect, it’s a city based franchise and you got to have the city name in the team’s name. Punjab and Deccan have knowingly or unknowingly flaunted common sense. At least Punjab is a state, Deccan is just a name given to the whole of South India which also has 2 more teams and one addition next year. So next season I would prefer if DC are named Hyderabad Chargers even though for business reasons they would rather leave it as Deccan.

Last but one and the weirdest name one can come up with, Mumbai Indians. Owned by Mukesh Ambani and run by this wife Nita, the name makes no sense. Before that, the other day I swear I saw Michael Jackson in the Mumbai dugout, than someone pointed out it was Nita Ambani post makeover. Coming back to the name, was it politically motivated? Is it Mukesh Ambani’s answer to the Thakerays? Or my best theory it’s a tribute to all the Indians in the US, popularly known as native Indians, red Indians or just Indians. Why would you call your team Mumbai Indians? We aren’t writing some postal address here, Mumbai India; might as well add a pin code. They could have kept in mind the Maratha sentiment and called it Mumbai Shivaji’s (not to be confused with Rajni, though Rajni is the actual Shivaji) or taking a leaf out of NFL, Mumbai Giants.

Now coming to my favorite team, KKR. Kolkotta Knight Riders, once again the obsession with Royalty. In this case it is justified; one of its owners is SRK, who is the Badshah or King. So naturally his players will be knights. But, there is one exception they are playing in the wrong league. They should be in the Pakistan Premier League, but lost their way and ended in the Indian League. Though Pak and Bangladesh is still the focus, only the money is from India. They even have the best costume, yeah its costume because they are a bunch of jokers. No sane man would wear purple jersey with gold colored pads and helmets and want to be taken seriously. It’s the most hated team playing in a ground that booed an Indian team because one particular Ganguly was dropped. Thankfully they scratch the bottom always. What to say about the team, they have Agarkar in it. For more information visit the #agarkarfacts in twitter. Coming back to the name, I thought all Knights are riders? Or the owners were great fans of the show Knight Rider aired in the 80s and 90s. All I can think of is Kolkotta Commi Bastards.

IPL is vulgar, gaudy, over the top and I don’t even want to start on the commentators, but I am loving it.

Monday, September 28, 2009

My Son's Marriage

The most debated topic among Indians is marriage-not politics, not sports, but it is marriage; arranged marriage vs. love marriage; inter-caste marriage vs. intra- caste marriage; inter-class marriage vs. same-class marriage and the new addition, courtesy article 377, homosexual marriage vs. heterosexual marriage. The debate goes on and on.

Some debates start after the marriage and the biggest for Men is generally Mom vs. Wife. The debate is to determine whether the ‘Man in the middle’ is a ‘Mama’s boy’ or ‘Henpecked’. There is no mid-way. What is interesting is the mother’s point of view. Mother thinks that, if it’s a love-marriage, the daughter-in-law (DIL), who is already one -up, has scored several points over. She feels a sense of defeat, as if the whole world has plotted against her. The love-marriage makes the son ’henpecked’ even before he is a husband. On the other hand, if it’s an arranged marriage, the mother feels a sense of victory. The DIL ought to be indebted to her, since her generosity resulted in the latter getting a husband. Since it was she who approved, the Mother is in charge.

It is really interesting to hear mothers speak about marriages. They seem to have a very clear conscience about the decisions they make. They are justified in whatever they say and whatever they do. One such interesting story comes from the house of Mr.Sukumar.

Sukumar lived in the Jayalakshmipuran extension of Mysore city for the last 30 years. He and his bride, Kamala had set up their home in the 1970s. They were very happy that just two roads away was the ‘Rayara Matha’, a couple of furlongs ( away were the famous Eshwara Temple and at a kilometer’s stretch Lord Vekenkateshwra resided. He worked in Canara Bank and rose through the ranks. Basically they were typical middle class Brahmin family of Mysore of yesteryears. A few years later, Raghavendra, their eldest son was born in ‘Cheluvanba’ Hospital and he was followed by Gayathri, who was delivered in ‘Kamakshi’ hospital. After many more years, they had a third child, Aditya. Raghu and Gayathri went to Chinmaya Vidyalaya, which was near their house, but Adi was sent to the St. Joseph Central, a convent, which reflected the changing fortunes of Sukumar.

Kamala was an educated women stuck in the transition. Her modern outlook was masked by the fear of society. She proved to be a very good mother. The definition of a good mother being, inculcating good values to the children, running the house efficiently and serving the husband and children well ( I don’t approve this definition; but they are the society standards). Her single most desire was to see her children “settled well” and she strived hard for it: sat up with them when they studied late nights, prayed for them day and night, provided snacks and food right at their study tables, waited up till they reached home and what not. Raghu reciprocated by getting a good rank in CET and joined E&C in SJCE. Gayathri did even better in her CET and had a chance to go to Surathkal NIT. But, Kamala put her foot down and made her too join SJCE, since she didn’t want her daughter to go out of sight. At the time of writing this story, Adi was still studying in the 10th standard.

Raghu did the unthinkable. He fell in love. Ramya was his junior in college and also his colleague in office. They just hit off right from the beginning and the usually reserved Raghu opened up to her. Kamala had her suspicion, but could not get it confirmed. She never pressed Raghu because she knew the answer and didn’t want to hear it. She liked Ramya, but at the same time “that girl” wasn’t her choice. She kept thinking where she went wrong with Raghu, why was he behaving the way he was? The day finally arrived when Raghu convinced Sukumar and Kamala to go to Ramya’s house.

Ramya came from a business family. They were a Brahmin family too, so Kamala didn’t have the caste criteria to reject her. Instead, while on the way to Ramya’s house, she kept reminding Raghu that, since the girl is from a rich household, she won’t know how to cook or run a household and she would expect him to hire a lot of servants. But Raghu kept mum. By now, he had realized that whatever the girl is or isn’t, his mother is going to find something or the other wrong with her. Sukumar never uttered a word. He was still in a mood of denial. He couldn’t digest the thought that his son had a choice. How can he? What does he know? Were the questions running in his mind. He was upset with Kamala that she was trying to reason with Raghu. You don’t reason with kids; you just tell them what to do. But, still he was there, on the way to strike an alliance for his son.

“When kids themselves have decided what can we do”, “Nowadays our duty is only to put ‘Akshathe’ on their head” and similar things could be heard from the drawing room of Ramya’s mansion in ‘Kuvempunagar’. Kamala wanted Raghu to wait until Gayathri’s marriage was fixed. But Ramya’s parents weren’t ready to wait. “Before anything more happens, let us get them married” was their reasoning. The marriage took place two months later in ‘Police Bhavan’, one of the biggest marriage halls in Mysore. Kamala and Sukumar were very disappointed that the girl’s people missed out many rituals and didn’t conduct the marriage to their liking. What was supposed to be the crowning moment of Kamala’s life, turned out to be a damp squid.

Ramya and Raghu occupied the bedroom on the top floor. Kamala was right at least partly about Ramya. Ramya didn’t make an effort to adjust to the new household, instead tried to lead a separate life of her own. She behaved like a paying guest in her own place. Kamala waited for Ramya to make the first move and Ramya did not move an inch. Meanwhile, Gayathri had moved to Bangalore for her job and Kamala all of a sudden felt really alone. Ask your wife to wake up early, why doesn’t she come downstairs much and many such whys were asked by Kamala, to which Raghu had no answers. Finally, when he did speak up, it was to say that he wanted to move out, at least for a few years. Kamala had not just lost the battle but the war itself.

Raghu got a rented place about 2 kilometers from his parent’s house. Ramya realized that moving out wasn’t that a great idea as now she had to help in cooking, cleaning and all the other things. Raghu was prepared for it and took it in his stride, but Kamala was distraught. She decided to involve herself in finding a match for Gayathri. She was saddened that Raghu wasn’t searching, Raghu on his part said that he didn’t want to interfere in Gayathri’s affairs. Kamala blamed Ramya for Raghu’s non-indulgence.

It was time to sleep but Sukumar wanted to finish reading a book he had started. Kamala turned towards him and said, “Look at that Ramya, she is making our son cook and clean. And this fellow is doing it! I never made my son enter the Kitchen.” Sukumar’s reaction was “Huh, what can we do?” Kamala wasn’t done, “I am sure that she made him shift the house, or else why would he want to leave the house? She filled his head with these things” she ranted. “All this is because of your upbringing, whenever I said anything, you supported the children, now suffer.” Sukumar never missed a chance to bring this up. “That Ramya’s mother always is at their place. She is the one who fills her head with these things. If I had selected the girl, all this wouldn’t have happened I knew from the start that this girl wasn’t right for Raghu”; Kamala said, venting her frustration. Sukumar intervened,” Forget that. Now tell me what about the boy we have seen for Gayathri. I really liked him. What about you?”

“ Well everything is okay about the boy. But the only thing is that he stays with his parents. I don’t want Gayathri to have in-law problems you know”, Kamala said before switching off the lights.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Retirement?? You must be Kidding!!!

ESPN school quiz, year 2037, a 70 year old Harsha Bhogle shouts in an excited voice, “First of all is the easy question: "Which is the only father and son pair to play a test match together?” The answer “Sachin and Arjun Tendulkar” is instantaneous. Sachin Tendulkar the phenomenon will never retire from Test cricket and people will never stop loving him. This scenario was discussed in our Saturday afternoon ‘after lunch and don’t know what to do’ situation. Usually we talk crap and this is an example of it. But this is different, when you talk about Sachin, emotions run high. People are obsessed with him.

It is worth pondering. We might soon have India playing SA in Chinnaswamy and you hear Sachin give a squeaky call, “Arjun Single” and you hear a squeakier "Papa Tham”. After the over, Arjun says “Aayi Shaapat; out hojatha papa".

It’s high time we realize that Sachin will never retire from Test Cricket and his fan following no longer depends on his cricket performances. Till his last breath he will do commercials, he will be playing test cricket and occasionally ODI too. GK, my roommate; adds: Sachin will never retire, in fact after he crosses 70 years every test venue will have an ambulance and medical squad waiting. Sachin would play till the year 2073 and die on the cricket field just 4 days short of 100 years. Does this ring a bell?

The only man to play 800 Test and 2500 ODI’s, India’s youth icon for 50 years running, winner of every possible award in India (including ‘Param Veer Chakra’) and many more things. The only person in the world to have an award named after him and winning it himself; twice. These are some of the legacies Sachin is going to leave behind. By now you must have realized that Sachin will attain unprecedented levels and that we will love him irrespective of his cricketing abilities.

“Sachin dedicates the 16 runs he scored today to the memory of Azhar”, screams a 2055 headline in TOI. Lot more dedications follow: 12 for Ganguly, 5 for Dravid and likewise; but Sachin goes on batting. The only guy to outlive Sachin will be Gavaskar who at 113 could still be heard complaining about Australians sledging. By now, BCCI would be “The governing body” of world cricket and it would pass a resolution that anyone heard criticizing Sachin would be prosecuted and hanged in public. People will laud it and Boycott is hanged the next day. IBN does a special on cricket where people all over India are heard saying, "this decision was long overdue and Sachin should be treated with the respect he deserves".

Sachin finally ends up being the 11th avatar of Vishnu. We will make him immortal and start worshiping him. He will become part of folklore, and in due course of time, all the innings in which he failed would be eliminated from records and after Vishnu, Sachin will the second person to have a 'Sahasranama'.

I love Sachin. He has provided me with great joy and made me love the game of cricket even more (if that’s possible). There were days when I used to stop watching the match if Sachin got out. The Natwest Trophy finals, which is remembered as the Yuvraj and Kaif show, is one such instance. I loved to see him on commercials and I did want to drink 'Boost' because Sachin asked us to. I have never seen Bradman bat live and the video footage I have seen aren’t impressive. So to me, Sachin is the best Batsman the world has seen. But, how much ever you like someone, things come to an end. I think the time has come for us to let Sachin retire. All I say is that, the obsession is justified; but common sense should prevail. Sachin should retire gracefully and not become another Kapil who took 3 years to go from wicket 400 to 432). If 15000 test runs is his aim, then so be it; however we will remember him not for the 15000 runs but the way he hit them.