Thursday, May 26, 2005

Curveball....

I am like the minor leaguer who has just broken into the big league. And Life is this Hall of Fame pitcher with a dangerous curveball, the likes of which I have never faced. But sometimes, one of these curveballs happens to be in the right place at the right time and you just close your eyes and swing at it and hope it connects.

I just did that today and connected it with no effort from my side. Now I am joogging towards first base, looking at the ball flying high over left field, hoping it clears the wall and lands in the hands of that young kid who's reaching out to it! I have no chance of getting out, thats for sure. The ball is high enough to elude the outfielder, but will it be a homerun?

That's just what I am hoping for as I reach first base. It is a sweet feeling with a tinge of bitterness brought about by the essential cynic in me, wondering if I have finally made it?

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Vagaries of time

You know that its time you grew up, when someone much younger to you decides that they need your approval for a life changing decision that they have either taken recently or are close to taking.

But is it abnormal that you just don't want to grow up?

Saturday, May 21, 2005

BCCI, quo vadis? (continued)

On my last post, I detailed the sorry state of events that led to the PIL, filed by Shantanu Sharma and Rahul Mehra in 2000. The case seems to have progressed slowly to the current state that, now after five years, a New Delhi high court has instructed Sharma and Mehra, to file (on or before May 25th) a wish list. The BCCI has also been instructed to file appropriate response to each item on the wish list. Rediff set out to ask its readers to send in suggestions. Most of these suggestions seem very clear cut. But some seem to be knee jerk with no explanation as to how such a suggestion could be logically implemented by the BCCI in the near future.

I have attempted to dissect some of the major suggestions that have been thrown up by these readers. I have also added as and when required, my own suggestions to suggest a framework by which the BCCI’s day to day activities could be coordinated towards the single goal of ensuring a better experience, both for the players and paying public. I think I might sound stupid, but I am ignorant sometimes. So please bear with me and do leave your comments if you think there are some points that I need to learn about before talking about them.

Go and ask any cricket fan in India for his/her views about how BCCI could improve, the first thing that would probably come out of their mouth would be that the BCCI should be run with people who have played some cricket in a professional capacity for a State or the country. But how are we going to attract these former players?

Let’s ask a question to ourselves. Let us assume X earns a monthly salary of Rs. 20000 through an IT services company. Such employment offers X a fixed framework to work, by way of a fixed job description, fixed working hours (mostly) and not to mention, job security. Let us say that X is a very good singer. X loves to sing and has been singing at live concerts for a sum. Suddenly a music company comes to X and offers singing gigs, but at a lesser salary that X has been earning so far. X is also told that the payment will be on an hourly basis and only when X sings. Would X want to leave the IT services company just to sing on an hourly basis? Wouldn’t X think that it would be better if the two jobs could be juggled in such a way that the working hours wouldn’t conflict? And in any case, professionally there would not be any conflict of interest, unless X has to sing for a campaign to promote a rival of his employer. And I am sure that X would come to such a conclusion.

Do you see where I am coming at? Most former cricketers who I think have the capability to administer cricket, say a Gavaskar or a Ravi Shastri (for e.g.) are contracted with one TV channel or the other to offer expert commentary during televised games. While X’s dual gigs would not be in conflict, Gavaskar’s presence in both the TV studio and the Board’s selection committee meeting would probably be in conflict. Rameez Raaja found just that last year when he, even though he was in the team selection panel, was sitting in the commentary box, sometimes dishing the same players he helped select. So the way out, to sign on capable cricketers exclusively by offering them remuneration comparable to what they would receive from the TV channels. Also this employment contract would be of no fixed duration giving them the oppurtunity to leave if they choose to. But for this to happen, a corporate structure has to exist within the BCCI. This is currently not the case.

The ICC’s member profile page for India informs us that India has been a Full Member since 31 May 1926. But what really surprised me is the fact that the BCCI’s office seems to be headquartered at Trivandrum (address: Board of Control for Cricket in India, "Kairali", G.H.S. Lane, Manacaud, Trivandrum 695 009, Kerala, India) with an email address hosted by Sathyam Infoway for contact! Funny, because I always thought that the BCCI is based out of Mumbai. While this might just be a oversight or a error on the ICC part, it is really surprising (and saddening) that the India seems to be the only full member of the ICC that does not have an official email address, let alone an official website. Even Zimbabwe seems to have at least an official looking email address. I have sent an email to the address mentioned in the ICC website and will update this post as and when I get a response (or the email error message that I expect to get). I am highlighting this trivial issue because since even the perfunctory corporate structure does not exist, how are we going to treat it like a corporate body?

So, do we force the BCCI to incorporate a business framework into its working? I think that’s the way out. Now this does not mean that I want the government to take over the BCCI. Well, certainly not forever. But again, a government take over has its own pitfalls as a lot of Rediff’s respondents seem to have realized. So I have an alternate suggestion here.

Change is inevitable. And when the situation has not met change for eons, then the change would need to be radical. My suggestion has echoed by a lot others. But I think I have added a unique side to it, which will be apparent when you read on.

For starters, I DO want judicial and/or executive intervention into the BCCI’s affairs. The courts seem to have laid out some initiatives from their side, but it seems easily possible that the BCCI can get some another judge to either overturn the original order or at least obtain a stay in this regard. So would Executive intervention be a solution? I am not a constitutional expert, but would it be possible for the government, not necessarily the PMO, but Raisina Hill, to reach out to the BCCI and see what is going on? Now that would be a start.

This is how it should play out. The government appoints a steering committee, initially comprising of a few cricketers. However, I would definitely not want the one’s who keep putting their foot in their mouth everyday in the media, like Ashok Malhotra (who seems to have been in a coma for the past 5 years) and Mohinder Amarnath (who seems to be proud that he has a lap but no laptop). It would be better if this committee included people like Venkatraghavan, Vishwanath, Gavaskar and Pataudi, four people who seem to be intelligent enough to handle the attention and still do what is asked of them capably. Again the remuneration conditions that I have mentioned above should be followed clearly.

My next suggestion is probably the most controversial. Someone like Dalmiya or Bindra should be included in the committee. These two seem to have built up Indian cricket into this money making machine, starting with the 96 World Cup that their expertise in the business side should not be ignored. Bindra in addition seems to be doing pretty well in administering the PCA and seems to have developed Mohali into probably the best facilities in India. But Dalmiya or Bindra, either way, will not head the committee nor have any veto powers.

The government also deputizes a senior civil services officer from the IAS or the judicial system to liaise with the committee and make sure everything goes on track. This is a key position and the person chosen should be knowledgeable and also senior enough to not be in awe of the cricketers. This last part is trivial, but it seems possible that with cricket being as big as it is in India, anybody could be swayed from their duties.

Now what is this steering committee for? This steering committee would first figure out a business framework for Indian cricket under the financial and business laws laid down by the Constitution of India. Once the framework is set, the committee and government of India would advertise in the media channels calling for qualified candidates for a CEO to head “Cricket India”.

My take is that, the CEO of “Cricket India” just needs to be a good manager with pre-requisite experience of leading a reasonably large company successfully. Now once the CEO is chosen, the CEO sits with the steering committee to pick a candidate for a CFO and a CTO. The qualifications for the CFO would be just like any other company. But the CTO should have been involved with cricket or played cricket, not necessarily in India. For starters, the steering committee (along with the CEO, CTO and the CFO) shall pick a selection panel comprising of former international cricketers as salaried employees. These employees shall have no fixed term, but would be free to leave their positions as and when they deem fit. Subsequently, other cricketers shall be interviewed for these vacant positions if there are any.

And once the business framework is set, the company shall take over the running of the BCCI at the national level with the state level organizations following suit in time. The new organization shall be registered as company in the stock exchanges and shall be answerable to all its shareholders. Such an organization would enter into agreements with service providers like the TV production companies just like any other company would do with its vendors and customers. The financial details would also be made public every year or quarter. And I am sure that Indian cricket would be comparable to any current blue chip stocks once it is listed.

Now, this cannot be done within a day or two. So it is logical that we let the BCCI stay as it is, till the steering committee shall do what it needs to do. Once Cricket India becomes a reality, the BCCI should be asked to hand in the reigns with all assets of the BCCI transferred to the new organization.

But all this will not be possible without executive intervention. And the PMO intervening would be too much to ask, with the current political scenario in India being non conducive for radical steps. So where do we go? Would Raisina Hill oblige with an executive order? Is it even possible?

Sunday, May 15, 2005

BCCI, quo vadis?


The turn of the last century was a tumultuous period in Indian cricket. A cursory glance of the headlines on Cricinfo seems to corroborate this view. In February 2000, The Indian team returned from a drubbing at the hands of Australia in Australia, a tour that was as controversial off the field as it was one sided on it. The tussle between the selectors and the team management in Australia began with a widely reported statement from Board Secretary J.Y.Lele that the team was going be whitewashed. Then Nayan Mongia was recalled and sent to Australia to cover for Saba Karim and was publicly ignored by Kapil Dev and Tendulkar who stated on record that they had not wanted Mongia in Australia. These off the field issues certainly did not help the team, which was beaten badly.

Almost immediately after the team?s return home, in Feb-Mar 2000, a South African team led by (the late) Hansie Cronje landed in India to play 2 Tests and 5 ODI's. The selectors seemed to take another step backward by including Azhar in the test squad, a move that surprised everyone. As a result, even before the series started, Sachin, who apparently did not think too much of Azhar and who had been captain in Australia announced he was relinquishing the captaincy after the 2 Test series. But the series that started in such a sour note ended with India being whitewashed in a home Test series at home for the first time.

It was in such strained circumstances that Shantanu Sharma, a lawyer and Rahul Mehra, a businessman decided to file a PIL on April 20, 2000 against the BCCI in a New Delhi high court. The PIL charged the BCCI with abandonment of any efforts for the growth and betterment of cricket in India. An Outlook article from last October mentions that the two petitioners spent close to 3 months studying accounting records from the BCCI (how did they manage to get access to those records?) with the help of a ?leading economist?, not to mention Prem Panicker, to figure out what was going on in the BCCI. And Outlook did a cover story on what they discovered. It makes for quite an interesting reading!

The BCCI hired a hot shot legal team comprising of a virtual who?s who of Indian legal eagles ? Kapil Sibal among them. They argued that the PIL was not ?maintainable? since the BCCI was registered under an obscure act (Tamil Nadu's Society Registration Act of 1860) as a private society, making it answerable only to the 31 state associations and not to the public! So then first, the court had to rule whether the incredulous claim was valid or not, according to the laws of the land.

The BCCI, then, in an apparent display of excellent (but anachronistic) foresightedness announced that it had drafted a 27 page Vision Statement for Indian Cricket that it submitted to the (then) Sports Minister, Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa in New Delhi in August 2000. A closer look however revealed that the vision statement was actually a PowerPoint presentation containing 27 slides containing 5 or 6 bullets each, totally comprising of somewhere close to 1700 words (which I found by using the word count tool in MS Word). It is interesting to note that, in comparison, my recent post titled Weekend Chronicles had exactly 1000 words (the post title and my sign off included)! Either I am very thorough or the drafter of the vision statement was gifted with extreme conciseness. Sadly the former seems to be more plausible, once you actually go through the whole vision statement.

Soon Rediff did their own version of the vision statement that it (i.e Rediff, in BCCI garb) said would be reviewed by "a broad-based panel of experts, comprising of cricketers of standing and repute, management and financial experts, for comments, criticism and suggestions, which will then be incorporated into the final draft. Which, in turn, will then become the cornerstone of a new cricketing future for India".

However, after that the activities get murky. After practically hearing nothing for a couple of years, the next thing I heard was that, in the midst of the telecast rights imbroglio last year (before the Australia series), Zee TV had gone to court, contending that BCCI, being a public body cannot act arbitrarily. This time, the BCCI while giving the same argument as the previous case, also added that the Saurav Ganguly led team was actually representing the BCCI and not India as a country. This theory was pooh poohed by the court which ultimately said that the team was actually representing India, since the Indian colors and the Tricolor were prominently displayed in uniforms and gear. This judgment was in October 2004 (as reported on Outlook).

The original PIL was in the back of my mind for a long time, but of late my thought has been that, with the slow pace of the Indian judicial system, it has almost been abandoned or silently dismissed! So it comes as a pleasant surprise that while the case has actually been proceeding slowly, it has certainly not been dismissed. Rediff reported a couple of days ago (as my previous post says) that Rahul Mehra and Shantanu Sharma, the original petitioners have been asked to submit by May 25, "a wish list of what, in their opinion, the BCCI should do to clean up its functioning". The court has also ruled that the BCCI has to respond constructively to every suggestions from the petitioners.

But before we jump up and down, it has to be understood that this is but a small victory ? a minor battle won in a great war that still hinges on the balance. It remains to be seen how Mehra and Sharma respond. Given their tenacity, I think they would already have something ready. So, let's watch everything carefully and hope for the best.

The media seems to be watching the events closely. As Amit Varma told me, Rediff has been doing an awesome job (most of the links here are from there) of publicizing this issue, though I feel that there have been lot of gaps chronologically. But ultimately, we, as fans can also put forth suggestions. Last October, during the height of the telecast rights controversy, Amit raised a number of valid questions in this regard and pointed out some possible solutions, on his 23 Yards blog on Cricinfo. Now, Rediff has asked for suggestions from its readers.

Since I already have a platform to voice mine on, I am going to go ahead and give my take on this issue right here. But I don't think it will be anything new. So in that case, if the possible solutions are right in front of our eyes, why are these solutions being ignored?

I think I have rambled enough on this post. I will stop now and continue later after collecting my thoughts.

(To be continued...)

Friday, May 13, 2005

Amukki Podu!


Amukki podu! Posted by Hello

The Place: A running train (Pallavan Express)

The Date: February 20, 1999 (the day India lost to Pakistan at Calcutta :( )

The Event: Return journey from Chennai to Trichy, en route from Delhi after a visit to some industrial trade fair or the other!

The Activity: Dancing with Venkat, to Kasu Mele Kasu Vandhu, played over a stereo smuggled into the train !

*sigh* Those were the best days of my life! Missing all friends and missing all those days!

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Will the BCCI clean up its act?

Wow, this is making me re-think my abstinence from cricket related posts ! This issue is something I have felt strongly for a long time and I remember a couple of long discussions over the phone with a friend (a fellow cricket fanatic who still plays down south in Florida) . Mebbe this weekend!

Meanwhile Rediff has posted the Full text of the Delhi High Court judgment! Read it!

Monday, May 09, 2005

The first post from my Motorola V300!

Hello world!

I logged into Blogger this morning to see a posting on Blogger Buzz regarding Blogger Mobile - a new Blogger feature that allows you to create and update a blog with photos and text from your mobile device. And later found a post on the same topic by LazyGeek too. I decided to try the system and part of this post resulted.

That pic and the "Hello World!" text was posted from my cell phone a couple of mins ago! The pic is actually of me and my friends from my school days, taken a few days (if I remember right, our last group arattai session) before I came here to the US for the first time in 2001. During a nostalgic phase a couple of months ago, I decided to keep the pic as my cell phone wall paper. And today, posted it as my first mobile post!

I am officially a "Blogger on the Go"! And you, to become one, send to "go@blogger.com", whatever you want to post and follow the instructions that are given here! Thangamaaaannni Ennjjaaaaay!

(P.S The quality of the posted pic is rather poor given the poor maintenance that my V300 endures because of the "not too mobile savvy" me! And I am there in the pic! If you need any help, I am the guy sitting on the far left.)

Friday, May 06, 2005

Ash, Are you stupid?

Aishwarya Rai on Jerry Springer! (link: courtesy George)

Someone tell her what the show is all about. Someone tell her about the episode where a horrendously obese man was given a scrubbing in a bathtub on stage because his dirtiness made his girlfriend break up with him. Someone tell her about the fistfights that happen on stage. Someone tell her about all the nasty name calling. Someone tell her that no one respectable, apart from desi grad students fresh off the plane from India (1) watch it! Someone tell her that, if she is stupid enough to go on the show, let her not be stupid enough to let her mom know when it is on TV. Someone tell her that in the aftermath of the show, she should also steer her mom away from the computer and the TV for the rest of their lives, because this is something that will haunt her for the rest of her life.

But I guess she is NOT. I think this is another joke ON the Slimes of India who attribute this news to (The) Spoof.com! Gotcha! So Someone DID play a joke on the Slimes of India. Look at the disclaimer on the bottom the article on thespoof.com! But, Aishwarya should sue the Slimes guys for putting this up without the disclaimer.

[1] I have never seen the inside of a strip club! I am pretty much ambivalent to it and I think the absence of any in a 50 35 mile radius of Athens (Ohio) is responsible for the status quo. But ya, most male desi grad students have watched Springer regularly as part of their initiation rites, much like the obligatory strip club visits. I watched Springer regularly during my second year here. Not the first year because I had no access to TV during my first year. And that episode with the frighteningly obese guy getting a scrubbing on stage with his estranged (and waiting to get back together with him) girlfriend looking on, is what that made me turn off the TV. Till then the show was funny, but even the thought of that scene makes me want to puke now!

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Weekend Chronicles

This was a fun weekend, involving everything that I would like to do/experience (at least on the weekends) for the rest of my life - Sooper company, good conversations, interesting movies, music, some travel and awesome food. Probably the only thing that was missing was cricket!

It was a Dinner and a Movie night on Friday. M reccommended that we hit this Mexican joint close to the U Del campus, after which we caught the first show of the big screen adaption of the Douglas Adam's The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. I cannot say much about the movie. I wanna see the movie again, mainly because a lot of Alan Rickman's lines went unheard, in lieu of the poor quality of the sound system! However I think the movie remains true to the book, inspite of Adam's death midway through the screenplay writing.

M and I then spent almost the rest of the night talking about a lot of things over coffee, ice cream and cookies till the juggernaut otherwise known as sleep ran us over in the wee hours of the morning when the birds were just taking their first chirps. Nice start to the weekend. Coincidentally, every single Friday night (4 so far) here, I have never managed to sleep before 3 am, in spite of promising myself a early retirement to bed. However, its mostly been fun, if you discount that India Pakistan ODI last month.

Woke up Saturday morning and made a quick trip back home to re-brush my teeth, get a change of clothes. After a heavy lunch at an Indian restaurant, we decided to do a bit of sightseeing, in spite of the steady drizzle. During a brief lull in the rain, we hit the Longwood Gardens (the erstwhile residence of the heirs to the DuPont empire) about a hour before the scheduled closure at 6 pm and learnt a bit about fragrant flora and their scientific names. We also seemed to discover that "digitalis" refers to "digit like" or "finger like", though that was a surmise from one of the guys in the group. Took a couple of nice pics that I thought brought my softer side out into the open. Haven't seen them yet. On the road again in pouring rain, we decided to make a detour to the local Indian store to pick up some chaat supplies. One of the gals picked up a couple of DVDs with Assorted Bollywood hits (one specificially mentioning RDB), which seems to be the terminology used to refer to any DVD that contains all the songs from 4 or 5 different movies. Over Bhelpuri and Panipuri, we shot our way through these two DVDs till we came to an interesting song - Mere Sapnon Ki Raani (Aradhana).

Through my time at college and at several different points since then, I have been involved in arguments surrounding the title of the book that Sharmila Tagore (OMG, she really pouts her way through scenes!) seems to be reading on the train while she furitively glances at Rajesh Khanna serenading her from his jeep. While the author of this book has been universally narrowed down to Alistair Mclean, the book's title has always been in conjecture, with several being touted as the one. Ladies and Gentleman, I can safely settle this argument once in for all and will probably post a DVD screen shot sometime in the near future! The title of the book is When Eight Bells Toll! Thank you! (* takes a bow as he prepares for entry into the Quizzing Hall of Fame for valuable contributions such as these to the quizzing fraternity !)

A craving for ice cream made us venture back out into the drizzle to the nearest Dunkin Donuts / Baskin Robbins outlest where I gorged on a twin scoop of fruity sherbet and pista ice-cream with roasted almonds topped by a cherry. A longer drive followed (don't ask me why, but I guess the answer would be, because we could!) and we came back close to midnight and plonked ourselves down on the carpet to watch the digitally recreated version Mughal-E-Azam (in color). I thought the movie was actually hilarious with the romantic looks and the lines getting laughs out of the RC me! I was not too impressed with the "remastering", but again I don't know how the result compares with other efforts such as the old Three Stooges movie that I read about somewhere a couple of months ago.

Soon the sight of the majority catching a few winks on the side provoked the host into ordering us into our respective beds. We did retire to bed soon after, but sleep we did not. All of us ended up talking for close to another hour and I finally hit dreamland around 3 am.

But it has been a quiet Sunday so far, after I got back home close to noon. I caught up with the dirty laundry (literally) and got some reading done in advance for the coming week.

I know this is turning out to be a diary that I never intended to have, but I think I haven't had this much fun in the last months. The week is actually very hectic with the amount of reading and training that I have been doing on the professional front and thankfully the weekends have been just the medicine to rest the otherwise tired mind. I think it helps to have a few like minded friends around! Thanks guys!

Thanks to all those who left comments on my previous post. I think it was just a morose 24 hours that prompted that outburst. And as for all of you who have been leaving comments on my twin Gaana posts, thank you too. I think these two posts have been the ones with the maximum comments so far on this blog. I appreciate your interest and your comments and hope you will be back!