Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Dropped in a match, becomes captain one match later...

Welcome to the Great Indian Cricket circus. 

Dreams do become reality.

Never give up – No matter what!

{Add your own one-liners about comebacks here. It will all mean the same}

Ajinkya Rahane has had one explosive week of witnessing the "yin and yang" of an Indian Cricketers life. He was dropped by the current Indian captain MS Dhoni for the 2nd and 3rd ODI under the pretext that Rahane does not rotate the strike on sub-continent pitches. While I find the argument highly debatable, I trust the decision made by a captain who has helped India achieve success in all formats in his captaincy tenure. And now, for the Zimbabwe series, Indian selectors have decided to rest all ODI regulars and have decided to reward Ajinkya Rahane with a captaincy role. His team will comprise of a “second string” ODI team that involves popular T20, domestic ODI players and one experienced bowler (in Bhajji) who are trying their best to push for a place in the Indian team. Quite a turnaround, I must admit! 

Ajinkya Rahane being picked for the Zimbabwe series makes a lot of sense. For one, Rahane is a top batsman who is destined to have a great career in Cricket. He is dedicated to the core and hates losing / non-performance. Also, if Dhoni’s analysis is to be believed, Rahane will thrive in the conditions on offer in Zimbabwe. The series, notwithstanding the defeat Team India has had at the hands of Bangladesh, will help him regain his touch and composure again for the long season that will follow. It will also help cement his position as a top player in the Indian team setup, if that has not happened already!


But is he captaincy material? That’s a big doubt going into the series. As per stats, Rahane has hardly had any opportunity to captain a team, either domestic or international. This could well be a case of a top player being rewarded with a captaincy role, something that we Indians are well accustomed to. Although statistics provide information on what has happened in the past, it gives no indication on the future. So, another way to look at this stat is that Rahane never got an opportunity to show his leadership skill and this series could be that opportunity. I, personally, would like to believe the second argument. But this doubt will remain till the end of the Zimbabwe series and maybe, even afterwards. I don’t foresee Rahane taking over the reins after Dhoni decides to hang up his boots even if he scores a hundred in each of the 3 ODIs. For Rahane, this series is only to access if he is capable of handling pressure of captaincy at international level.

Either ways, I must admit this is a great opportunity for Ajinkya Rahane to make it count and thereby throw his hat in the proverbial “future captain of India post Dhoni battle”. Virat Kohli is leading that race with no one in 2nd position and seems destined to take Dhoni’s captaincy place in the near future. But there’s no harm in having more options, right? For Team India, it’s always better if Virat Kohli is considered as the best option among other suitable candidates rather than Kohli being the only viable option in the team to replace Dhoni. Any form of constructive competition within the team, either for a spot in the playing 11 or a leadership role, will only help the team in the long run. 

So, Ajinkya. The ball is in your court now. Or, in cricketing terms, it's a half-volley for the taking!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

India Bangladesh series outcome is a surprise, not a shock

All hail Bangladesh – the new Asian tigers on the block. They whitewashed Pakistan 3-0 in the recently concluded ODI series and are now just one win away from doing the same to Team India. This was labelled as a revenge series based on what happened in the quarter-finals of World Cup 2015. And revenge is what they got. If I had given you scorecards of the first two ODIs after masking the team and player names and asked you to guess the teams, 9/10 people would have opted for India on the winning side. And why wouldn’t they? Team India is a top team in Cricketing circles. This is how big the result has been for Bangladeshis. Now they know, after defeating Pakistan and India convincingly, they are truly on the World map! Asia cup tournament, which happens once every two years, will no longer be a 3-horse race.

Team India, on their part, have only themselves to blame. Notwithstanding the level of performance brought to the table by Bangladeshis, Team India couldn’t cope with the pressure and succumbed, despite having a cool captain in MS Dhoni, top ODI batsmen and decent bowling attack. This is perhaps an apt scenario to apply the “falling like a pack of cards” adage.

Bangladesh vs India ODI series 2015 - The reaction says it all

What’s going wrong for Team India? – It’s a collective failure. Captain failed tactically, players failed to deliver. The batsmen are finding it difficult to play on familiar Asian pitches. And mind you, this is not a second-string team. This is the present and future of Indian Cricket. And both the losses have been nothing short of convincing. Maybe, this Indian team took their opponents a little less seriously. Who knows? One look at the scorecard and you know that their batting has been much better than ours and their bowlers picked up wicket every time the situation demanded. 

So, what’s next? – At this stage, lets not jump to conclusions and say we need dramatic changes in the team setup, like a change in captain, sacking some players simply because the series is lost. I also don’t see any problems with Ravi Shastri continuing his role or even being made the team coach. Tactically, I felt MS Dhoni missed a trick by dropping Ajinkya Rahane for 2nd ODI. Rahane is the closest among the current lot to replace Rahul “The Wall” Dravid. Rahane has been the main stay of an IPL team mentored by Dravid. Rahane (like Dravid) provides that stability when the chips are down. Rahane must be included in the batting order at number 3/4, even if he’s had an off day. Players like Rohit Sharma, Dhawan, Kohli, Raina will help accelerate the run rate while Rahane will play the anchoring role. Meanwhile, our bowling unit is a developing one. We don’t have someone who’s experienced enough in the bowling line-up whom the captain can fall back on for quick wickets. The current lot are great in patches, but they seldom hunt in pairs (remember Srinath-Prasad / Kumble-Bhajji?). Till the time we find and develop bowlers of such class, we will have to make-do with the current group. Fielding is definitely not a problem, in my opinion. We are at par with the best in the business in the fielding department.

Lets not take anything away from the successful Bangladeshis. They deserve every bit of success after coming out of the shadows of their Asian neighbors. Bangladesh has now become what Sri Lanka became after World Cup 1996. And believe me, it’s great news for World Cricket.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Red Chillies and Trinidad & Tobago – What’s the deal?

T20 is the in-thing. The top players are much sought after across the Cricket playing nations. Some of these top players have happily ended their commitments towards their respective national team in order to focus on T20. The fans love the hustle and bustle of “rapid-fire” version of Cricket. There’s non-stop entertainment, loud music, dancing, cheer-leaders and – most of all – umpteen sixes! So, if you are a Cricketer, this is one area you need to excel to rake in the moolah and big bucks. For many, this format has also opened up opportunities in the ODI and test version which, without T20, would have been a distant possibility. For the owners, this is one business idea which they can utilize to diversify and market their brand to a larger audience. For the ground-owners, this is another revenue stream and a significant one too. For the politicians, this is... Oops, let’s not traverse this road (sic).

So, it comes as no surprise that Kolkata Knight Riders’ owner Red Chillies Entertainment decided to buy a West Indian local T20 team, Trinidad & Tobago. It’s a business deal that has money and future profits written all over it. West Indies Cricket Board also stands to gain as popular public figures invest in their T20 teams. Shahrukh Khan is not the first celebrity to invest in a T20 team in West Indies. Hollywood stars Mark Wahlberg bought Barbados team and Gerard Butler bought Jamaican team. 

Red Chillies Entertainment buys Trinidad & Tobago T20 West Indies team


What’s in it for all stakeholders?
  • Red Chillies Entertainment – One word, diversification. Red Chillies are into movie production, allied industries in relation to movies, Cricket team in IPL and now another cricket team in West Indies. They are simply hedging their bets and investing in long term profits from T20 format. Shahrukh Khan owning and producing his own movies is always a win-win situation for the group. This deal also gives Shahrukh Khan an entry into West Indies possibly to increase the fan base for his movies. A fan of one venture of a corporate biggie will have a natural inclination to support the owners’ other ventures. It’s a bold decision, but will reap rewards in the medium to long term.
  • West Indies Cricket – Any investment of this kind in a country is always beneficial for that country. West Indies Cricket in general only stands to gain from such an investment. This means there’s a corporate house ready to invest in the ‘unofficial’ hub of T20 Cricketers. West Indies Cricketers are one of the reason why IPL has succeeded the way it has. Can you imagine Mumbai without Pollard and Simmons, Kolkata without Narine and Bangalore without Gayle. This business deal will possibly unearth more such gems from the T20 production headquarters, which is the Caribbean. And they are likely to get more spotlight now with CPL (Caribbean Premier league) now on global map. 
  • Kolkata Knight Riders – This is a long shot, but I think Kolkata will be the eventual gainers from such a deal. Here’s how. The core team that handles Cricketing activities for Kolkata team are more likely to be a part of the Trinidad and Tobago team too. Don’t you think they will have direct access to raw talents from Trinidadian origins? Any sports team needs to have the right balance of top players and future prospects (at relatively lower price, I might add). Any player who has a breakout season can then directly be poached by Kolkata and the transaction will be relatively smooth since both the buyer and the seller are the same. Add to that the fact that IPL and CPL don’t happen at the same time, and the T20 contracts are usually renewed on a yearly basis. Such a situation will allow for frequent shuffling of players from one team to other team under the same ownership umbrella. Kolkata and T&T can not only “share best practices” but also “best players”.
  • IPL – IPL is not a direct stakeholder, definitely not at this point in time. But I feel IPL will stand to benefit from this deal in the long term. Any idea evolves over time. IPL as a concept is fantastic primarily because it has copied been inspired from the most successful English Premier League / European Football leagues. So, it’s only natural for IPL to adopt more features from the Football leagues, one of which is the loan system. Don’t be surprised if players from one team are loaned to another team in a different country. This is especially possible when the owners of both the teams are same. Also, raw and young T20 specialists from West Indies may now move to the “more lucrative” IPL. 

I see this as the next step in the evolution of T20 league. Expect more corporates to join the bandwagon and own a T20 team in different countries. Australia, New Zealand, England and Sri Lanka could be the next destinations. The existing IPL team owners or their competitors or the bidders who lost out on IPL teams are more likely to invest.

But then, all the above points are likely to change if (and it’s a big IF) the rumors of a rival Cricket league becomes a reality. Remember Zee group? 

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

How's this for a T20 squad?

Probable and best West Indies T20 team

One look at the image above and you might have guessed what's common between them. Yes, all these players are from West Indies. Most of them have played pivotal roles in the recently concluded IPL season. I have taken the liberty to include some players who, I think, has what it takes to make the cut in T20 format. This is also to ensure the team is complete and provide much needed stability in case of a collapse, which - lets admit - the team is more than capable of! 

Some of the key players from West Indies who graced this IPL were – 
  • Lendl Simmons and Kieron Pollard (Mumbai Indians – eventual champions) 
  • Dwayne Smith and Dwayne Bravo (Chennai Super Kings – runner ups) 
  • Chris Gayle (Royal Challengers Bangalore) 
  • Andre Russell and Sunil Narine (Kolkata Knight Riders)

In my opinion, Lendl Simmons was a crucial cog in the wheel for Mumbai and his stability at the top coupled with his athleticism on the field ensured Mumbai emerge champions. He was 3rd in the list of highest run getters this season. Kieron Pollard is almost a “Mumbaicha-mulga” now and for rightful reasons too! Dwayne Bravo ended up as the highest wicket-taker this season. Andre Russell won the Most Valuable Player (MVP) award of the season. Chris Gayle, not surprisingly, finished with the highest number of sixes in the tournament. Even the IPL 2015 final was dominated by West Indies’ players. Have a look – 


Mumbai Indians vs Chennai Super Kings IPL 2015 summary screengrab

West Indies Cricket team is in a crisis and has been in one for the past few years now. But they have something the world is looking at – exciting T20 cricketers. This is the “hen that lays golden eggs” opportunity for West Indies Cricket Board (WICB). But only if they have the vision to see beyond their problems! I feel, West Indies are years away from establishing themselves in the Test and ODI arena. But T20 is theirs for the taking. They were the T20 champions in 2012 for a reason, after all.

As a cricket fan, I would love to see this team in action especially in 2016 T20 World Cup, assuming all the problems are sorted out. Come on WICB, make it happen. You owe this to all Cricket fans. At least, for the sake of your glorious history!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Bad exam result is akin to losing a wicket - the match is still up for grabs!

It’s the most dreaded season of them all. Not summer, not rainy, not even winter. We, in India, can actually call it the “result season”. Tenth and Twelfth results to be precise. And if you are born to Indian parents with traditional (educational) values, then the pressure on you is nothing short of humungous! The pressure can be compared to a World Cup final match featuring India. The whole world will watch your performance (in exam: all relatives, neighbors, family friends, teachers and even your society will be keeping an eye on you). Good performance and a favorable result – you will be elevated by one and all. One bad step and an unfavorable result – you will be severely scrutinized, perhaps for the rest of your lives.

Is it really that bad? No. It’s not as bad as society and media makes it to be.

Can we form an analogy between Life and Cricket?

In Cricket, a batting team has resources up its sleeve to achieve a specific target. In doing so, they may lose out on some resources. Losing a wicket is losing a resource. Assume an ODI match is about to start. The opening batsmen are ready. A wicket goes down early. What does the one-down batsman do? He approaches the crease, looks for any uneven spot on the pitch, tries to even the surface, does his before-facing-the-first–ball routine, focuses on the immediate task at hand (and not the eventual target) and ensures he handles the initial friction well. I think this is what one needs to do in life too, especially after an exam result. Once we get hit by a hurdle, we need to slow down and contemplate the next course of action with caution. After the result, the world would want to know how much you have scored and congratulate or empathize with you based on the outcome. If you are the one anticipating empathy, watch out for friction and a bumpy road ahead. Overcoming this phase with caution is the key. Wait for the next phase to begin. 

In Cricket, the new batsman will try to form a partnership with the other batsman and start “rebuilding” the innings. He never laments for the wickets lost. What’s past is past. He may or may not be compatible with the other batsmen, but in the interest of his team, he “adjusts”. Shouldn’t we also follow the same principle? Once you start going to college, focus should be on present and the future and not the past. The result has come and gone. College life beckons. Also, you may not get the college / stream you want. But just like a partnership in Cricket, you need to “adjust” and form a partnership.
Life-always-offers-you-a-second-chance-Its-called-Tomorrow

When I was in tenth, I attended a send-off function hosted by school authorities. I happened to top the prelims (exam conducted just prior to the one that matters). So I was given an opportunity to share a message (motivational one) with the 9th standard batch-mates who were also present at the function. Since it was impromptu, I decided to say what I felt like without worrying much about the repercussions. This is what I told them – “Don’t compete with your friends / batch / university. Compete only with yourself. If you feel you can achieve 90%, go for it. If you feel 60% is the limit for you, strive to achieve that. Compete with the target you set for yourself and try to outdo it.” Post the function, my principal called me and asked me regarding the message I gave. I said, I conveyed what I felt was correct. The principal was of the opinion that I should have motivated them to achieve 90% and beyond. The message should have been the means to overcome all odds to be the best in our city. Although I had a sudden disconnect with what was being discussed, I realized that the society in which we live, judges us by the marks and not by the effort we put in. 

It’s now 16 years past that incident but sadly nothing much has changed. The only thing I feel has changed is that in those days, even 75% was considered great. Now 90% is only considered “decent”. I am not really sure why. Are the kids now well versed with what they study or is the evaluation now more lenient, who’s to say? 

It’s just a wicket that has gone down. The match (your life) is still up for grabs. Introspect the situation, learn from mistakes / shortcomings and do better next time. The only difference between Life and Cricket is that in Cricket, your success depends on your opposition losing. But life is much better; you can still win while celebrating your opponent’s success. 

Saturday, June 06, 2015

Harbhajan Singh in the Test squad - step in the right direction?

Age is just another number. But statistics have a different say to this. Statistics reveal that the more you age, less is your capability to be on top of your game vis-à-vis similar players across the sporting spectrum. What statistics don’t know are the players who are known by the following names – Steven Gerrard, John Terry, Xavi, Pirlo (all Football players), Kimi Raikkonen, Fernando Alonso (both F1 drivers), Pravin Tambe, Brad Hodge (both Cricketers). These players have defied age and all of them still show the same zeal and determination to succeed. Can we now add Harbhajan Singh to this list too? Time will tell.

I must admit, Harbhajan Singh’s name in the test squad to tour Bangladesh came as a surprise – a pleasant one, rather than a shock. I feel Harbhajan Singh can still give a significant contribution to the Indian national team. But that’s just a fan talking who has seen some phenomenal bowling and batting performances from the “turbanator”. Yes, no one can rest on their past laurels and Harbhajan himself knows it better than anyone else considering that he has last played a test match against Australia in March 2013. And that was the last time he was involved in any international game. He was 32 then. Now he’s a couple of months shy of 35.

So, do you think selectors have made a mistake / is this a moment of genius / case of no other options?
Harbhajan Singh Indian Team Test Squad for Bangladesh image

Arguments supporting Harbhajan Singh’s inclusion – 
  • Experience – An advantage of being a senior player in the team is the experience you bring to the table. Harbhajan has played test matches in different countries with different playing conditions. He knows how to handle pressure in tough situations. His presence in the dressing room / ground (provided he is selected in the playing XI) will be a big plus for team India. 
  • Form and dedication – Domestic test form aside, he has been one of the best performers in the IPL who never got an opportunity to play for the national side in the past 2 years. He is contributing positively to his IPL team and has been a critical cog in the wheel in the domestic T20 tournament. This leads me to believe he has not lost his desire to perform whenever given a chance. 
  • Opposition – Bangladesh team is an in-form team at the moment. They performed well in the recently concluded World Cup 2015. They eventually lost out to India in the quarter-finals and regrettably made a big issue out of it. Then they went on to defeat Pakistan in the ODI and T20 matches. One fact that tilted the favor towards an off-spinner as against opting for a leggie is that they will have as much as 6 left handers in their batting order. This skewed information makes it imperative to have off-spinners in your team to gain a tactical advantage. Enter the most successful non-retired off spinner in India.
  • If not Harbhajan, who else? – This is the Elephant in the room – a much bigger concern which the selectors need to address. R Ashwin is our #1 off-spinner. I don’t think we have anyone ‘ready’ who can complement / replace him in case of an injury. We have many off-spinners in the domestic arena but apparently no one is ready make the jump, or so the selectors think. The best off-spinner last season in Ranji Trophy was Swarupam Purkayastha, who played only 7 matches for Assam claiming 36 wickets at an average of 17.52. One to watch out for, I must add. But don’t you think he needs to get more experience under his belt in the domestic circuit to make the cut?

Arguments against Harbhajan Singh’s inclusion – 
  • Age – Age brings in experience to the team, but it also brings in “relatively” more inertia. Theory has it that with age, people become less agile and will probably be able to commit less compared to his younger self. These are theories with proven examples across the sporting spectrum. There are some who defied this logic, but there are only a handful of them. Harbhajan Singh is yet to prove he belongs to that league, although he has an opportunity now.
  • Test matches are different compared to T20 matches – Harbhajan has performed admirably better in the shortest format of the game (IPL) He has picked up wickets at regular intervals and played a significant part for his team – Mumbai Indians. But the only thing common between test match and a T20 match is that both need a bat and ball to play. Everything else is different. The temperament needed, line and length of bowlers, approach of batsmen, field placements, duration etc. 
  • Bangladesh series provides an ideal opportunity to try a youngster – This is one of the major reasons why Harbhajan should not have been selected. A series against Bangladesh (with all due respects) should be an ideal opportunity to include a promising youngster to be part of the team. He may not play in a match, but he will stand to gain vital experience just by being with the national squad. Is that an opportunity loss?

I believe if you want to know how important a player is to your team, ask the opposition. Bangladesh will now be a little concerned with Harbhajan Singh in the Indian squad. His repertoire will come in handy for Indian team and will always be a constant threat to the Bangaldeshi batsmen. If Harbhajan returns to his wily ‘young’ self, expect more wickets to flow for the ‘turbanotor’. Harbhajan, on his part, will be aware that this is his opportunity to prolong his test career. If he fails, this could well be his swansong series.

Now that I think of it, will this be his swansong series when he finally gets an opportunity to bid test cricket good-bye! There’s no apparent reason for me to believe why it cannot happen.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Six interesting takeaways from IPL-8

We have witnessed perhaps the most exciting IPL ever. Till the last day and the last match of the preliminary games, we didn’t have a clue as to which teams will make it to the top 4 (2nd to 4th positions) and at what position a team will end up with. Three teams who lost out were in contention till the penultimate day. Only Kings XI Punjab were truly out of contention. What followed in the Qualifiers and Eliminator games were worth watching. Everything ended with Mumbai Indians taking on Chennai Super Kings at Eden Gardens, Kolkata. Since losing in their first 4 games, Mumbai came back and won most of everything that came their way, including the all-important finals! Mumbai’s performance in the final was reminiscent of Australian teams winning World Cup finals in the last 1990’s and early 2000’s. Ricky Ponting presence probably made a difference as he was leading the Australian team then and now the head coach of Mumbai Indians this season. Chennai doesn’t have to feel bad about the result as they have been the most consistent IPL team in IPL history. 

Mumbai-Indians-IPL-2015-Champions-Group-Pic-Wallpaper

Here are some of the interesting takeaways from IPL season 8:
  1. Top 3 teams in IPL-8 were captained by Indians: That’s right. Mumbai Indians, Chennai Super Kings and Royal Challengers Bangalore were captained by Rohit Sharma, MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli respectively. The best non-Indian captain of an IPL team was Steven Smith of Rajasthan Royals (not surprising at all). David Warner (Sun Risers Hyderabad), JP Duminy (Delhi Daredevils) and George Bailey (Kings XI Punjab) all failed as a captain to lead their team to the knockouts. What does that say? Two things in my opinion – one, Indians leaders definitely know the conditions well and have their strategies in place and two, having the best player as captain is not always the best decision. David Warner and JP Duminy played well as individuals for their team but the collective was missing.
  2. Chennai Super Kings and Mumbai Indians are the best teams in IPL: Without a doubt, they are! Before you start arguing why I missed out on Kolkata and Bangalore, let me explain why these 2 teams are the best. They are consistent. They win matches when it matters the most. They have been past winners (Chennai – 2 and Mumbai – 2). They have been in the finals the most compared to others (Chennai – 6 and Mumbai – 3). They have been in the knockouts the most compared to others too (Chennai – always and Mumbai – 6). With IPL done with 8 seasons, the media have to start analysing teams and bring in team rivalries to make it interesting. Don’t you think we need a Manchester United v/s Liverpool level rivalry in IPL too? What about a Barcelona v/s Real Madrid? Sony Six will do themselves a world of good by promoting such competitions to bring it additional revenues in IPL. That’s one way to make money. Fans will also keep track of such matches in upcoming seasons of IPL. IPL needs to move on to the next stage and team rivalries can be a great way to start.
  3. Delhi needs a makeover, again: To be fair, Delhi started the IPL well (in seasons 1 and 2, they finished 4th and 3rd respectively). They were one of the top teams in IPL.  And then came the decline – 5th (2010), last (2011), 3rd (2012), last (2013), last (2014), 2nd to last (2015). The management of Delhi Daredevils have tried to change their setup every year, but to no avail. Retaining JP Duminy was a good decision and I feel they should retain him again for next year. They had the players to make them go the distance but no one clicked when it mattered, again. A costly Yuvraj Singh backfired terribly. This was just not Yuvraj Singh’s season and with age against him, he will have to make a decision. If he doesn’t, the auction participants next year will surely decide for him. 
  4. AB de Villiers is Cricket’s answer to Lionel Messi: He cannot do a thing wrong. Although he plays in a team-game atmosphere, he has his own individuality that cannot be overlooked on the ground. When he brings in a new weapon to score, he amazes even the opposition fans. On occasions, the opposition team have absolutely no answer and just watch his magical tricks on display. If you follow the sport, you got to respect the player irrespective of the team you support. Losing the World Cup after coming agonizingly close brought out the tears in a player we thought was from another planet and hence devoid of emotions. Who am I talking about? Lionel Messi or AB de Villiers? Or both? The same narrative applies to both these players right?
  5. IPL is a great leveller: And Kings XI Punjab is a great example in this regard. In the 2014 season, Kings XI bull dozed their way to the top of the league table only to lose in the finals in the worst possible way (by 1 run) against a resurgent Kolkata Knight Riders. But that does not take away the fact that Kings XI were the best team in that season. Kolkata simply made it count when it mattered the most. Cut to the 2015 season and the irony is evident. The best-team-by-a-distance in 2014 has nosedived to become the worst team of 2015, also by a distance! Factually, a team that won 11 out of 14 games in 2014 lost 11 out of 14 games in 2015! I don’t think the management is to be blamed here. Kings XI retained as much as 20 players for 2015 (highest by any team). It’s just that these players stooped to a level even they thought wasn’t possible. 
  6. IPL cannot be truly complete without controversies: IPL is all about synchronously merging Cricket with entertainment. In today’s day and age, entertainment also includes controversies and scams. The glue that attaches an Indian TV audience in front of their TV set is entertainment based journalism / news that involves scams and controversies. Let’s admit it, we simply cannot resist it. IPL-8 has also ensured controversies are brought it to make the event spicier. Remember Kieron Pollard’s tape incident. I felt it was a reaction in jest which was taken a little out of proportion by some. MSD criticising an umpire during the post-match speech was totally unlike MSD. Add to it, the recently discovered spot-fixing allegation in some of the matches in IPL-8. If the news channels have their way, expect a lot of "debates" on this front!
PS: This post has been selected as one of the Tangy Tuesday Picks by BlogAdda. 

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Is there a flaw in the IPL rule that decides final league position?

This has been one of the most exciting IPL tournaments. It could even be the best so far. Till the last day of the league game, 4 teams were vying for the playoff berth. That’s 50% of total IPL teams, to put things in perspective. Three of the last 4 games were virtual knock-outs. That’s how competitive this IPL was. In the end, Mumbai Indians, Royal Challengers Bangalore and Rajasthan Royals sneaked through to the playoffs.

This is how the points-table looks like after the league games – 

IPL 2015 Season 8 Final League table position

Do you, like me, have a doubt about the final position just by looking at the above league table? Look closely at positions 2, 3 and 4.

How did Mumbai Indians get the second spot?

This is thanks to the following rule of IPL – 

21.9.2 Where teams have an equal number of points their relative positions shall be determined by the following: 
a. the team with the most wins in matches in the League during the season will be placed in the higher position;
b. if there are teams with equal points and equal wins during the season, then in such case the team with the higher net run rate will be placed in the higher position

Although 3 teams are tied at 16 points, Mumbai overtook RCB and RR due to the extra win they have had this season. Mumbai have won 8 games. Both RCB and RR have 7 wins each and 2 washouts. Thanks to the aforementioned rule, Mumbai Indians got 2nd position. When the number of wins are same, only then Net Run Rate (NRR) will be considered. RCB has a better NRR compared to RR and hence got 3rd position with RR falling in 4th. Mumbai Indians have the worst NRR among the three teams.  

Did Mumbai Indians deserve second spot?

In my opinion, the answer is No.

Let’s understand this rationally. Such a rule makes a lot of sense in football where a draw has an equal chance of occurring compared to a definite result (win / loss). This probability does not apply in Cricket. A “no result / tie” scenario happens when a match is – 
- washed out due to weather conditions or a forfeit
- tied, i.e. two teams end with exactly the same number of runs

The first condition is not in our hands. IPL has smartly handled the 2nd condition well by introducing a ‘super over’. If the match is tied even after the super over (after considering the boundary count etc.), then it’s considered a tie. This is a rarest of rare occurrence in T20 games. Only 6 games have had a super-over in IPL history and all of them ended with a definite result, which means no tied games in IPL history.

IPL has messed up handling the 1st condition of a “no result / tie” situation – a washout. RCB and RR lost out purely due to bad luck. No one can predict rains and plan for it. It just so happened that RCB and RR had 2 washout games – even 1 victory out of these two matches would have ensured a better league position. Moreover they have better NRR, which means they have been more consistent than Mumbai, winning more convincingly than Mumbai and losing more close matches than Mumbai. Another way to look at it is that RCB and RR have lost lesser games than Mumbai yet finished below Mumbai. Not fair, right?

I am a fan of Mumbai Indians and have been supporting them since the inception of IPL and will continue supporting them till the end of IPL. This post is not against Mumbai Indians or any other team. This is just to address the flaw in deciding final league position. IPL should take notice and correct this flaw and allow relatively better team to have relatively better position. 

In my opinion, NRR should take precedence when teams are tied in the points table. NRR is a fair estimate of how a team has performed throughout the season. Had NRR been considered, Mumbai Indians would have been in 4th position behind RCB (2nd) and RR (3rd). It would have been Chennai Super Kings v/s Royal Challengers Bangalore for the 1st qualifier followed by Rajasthan Royals and Mumbai Indians for the eliminator. 

Let’s not allow the playing conditions to decide who is placed where in the table.

Friday, May 15, 2015

App Review: My Airtel (Android)

Airtel India is in a transitional phase in Indian markets – and for all the right reasons. They are promoting their 3G connectivity across the country in print media and TV adverts. They are developing the backbone for 4G connectivity and are soon to launch the high speed alternative to 3G in Mumbai (ahead of Reliance Jio). First mover advantage in the financial capital will do them a world of good! They are coming up with more and more offers for their prepaid customers and fighting tooth & nail with other operators in the postpaid circle. All this augurs well for maintaining the leadership position in Indian markets.

They are also working on customer touch-points – improving their customer service and upgrading their app. They have released a new version of android app which is a complete overhaul over previous version. Apple users will have to wait to get their hands on the app though, but they have the advantage of reviews and deciding whether they need to install / update their Airtel app.

A smartphone user has many expectations from their smartphone. An Airtel user is also no different in this aspect. Amongst many desires, they usually crave for following –
-          Offers, offers and more offers
-          Uninterrupted and fast network
-          Eco-system

My Airtel app Android Print advertisement.jpg

Airtel went back to the drawing board and updated their android app keeping the cravings as the core. The “My Airtel” app can be downloaded from Airtel’s website or from Google Play Store.  Some of the features of the Airtel app that are interesting and have a strong chance of being replicated across other network provider apps are the following –

1.       Shake the phone and save – Every prepaid user looking for a new offer to save an extra penny will be enticed to use this app. What makes it appealing is the sound of coins when you shake the phone for more offers. Their TV advert also promotes this feature extensively. Although the concept of offers is not new to any network provider app, the concept of users shaking their handset with the app installed to select and opt for current offers makes it worth trying. By introducing free coupons, they are now challenging players like Freecharge / Paytm / CouponDunia. Much needed competition for these guys to raise their game up a notch.

2.       Easy to use interface – This is a pre-requisite of any app user, let alone “My Airtel” app. Any app should be user friendly and all the features should be easily accessible as and when needed. When user spends a considerable amount of time searching for a feature, s/he naturally starts hating the UI of the app and will be in the market for an alternative. “My Airtel” app scores on this front too.

3.       An eco-system in itself – Airtel has more to it than just being a network provider. They are into DTH as well. “My Airtel” app has covered these avenues as well. They have ensured they create an ecosystem of their own where you can connect various accounts, including family Airtel numbers for quick and easy recharges / bill payments. There’s a section for complaints new & requests. Airtel surely has their strategy in the right place. And with 4G coming, we can only expect for more!

Although there are positives in “My Airtel” app, users are bound to find loopholes with more usage of the app, possibly same offers running and technical glitches. But that’s why app updates are needed. Airtel’s work on the app is just a beginning.

But a great beginning, I must add! I fully anticipate other players to follow suit or come up with even better features. Thumbs crossed! 

Thursday, May 14, 2015

My Mom and I

*************** Start of Conversation ***************

Dad: It’s a Saturday. What’s your plan for today?

Daughter: Mom’s gone to work. I think we can go to the garden and you can help me enjoy the rides. Wish Mom was also free on Saturdays.

Dad: People have different timings dear. I work from Monday to Friday. Mom works from Monday to Saturday. I don’t have month-long vacations. Mom has month-long vacations. I have different problems at work, mom has her own problems.

Daughter: I know about your problems, dad. But mom also has work related problems? I have never seen her under stress.

Dad: Yes she has. She travels for more than an hour to reach her workplace. She travels in Mumbai local trains. She has to prepare a lot prior to reaching her workplace. 

Daughter: I didn’t know all this. Dad, I think we should talk about it today. We’ll go to garden in the evening once mom comes back. Let’s discuss this now.

Dad: Ok. But tell me one thing. Why do you feel mom doesn’t have work pressure?

Daughter: She never shows it. She gets up in the morning and wakes me up in the sweetest way possible. I know I am a little fussy when I get up, I seek attention. But all I am yearning for is moms love and affection when I wake up. Then she takes care of my morning chores. While you play with me in the morning, she prepares breakfast for both of us and happily places it on the table. While we are busy eating / drinking, she gets ready for work. She sees you off and then plays with me for a while. She keeps me busy with something and quietly leaves for work, so that I don't notice and cry about it.

Dad: Wow. Interesting observation, I must say.

Daughter: Even when she comes back home in the evening, she shows no sign of tiredness. She brings lollipop for me, plays with me and we happily watch television for a while. In sharp contrast, when you return home, you seem tired. You play with me for a while and then go back to the room to change and rest. Then you and mom switch roles and you play with me while mom relaxes. But all through this, she never appears tired. This made me feel that you have work pressures but mom doesn’t.

Dad: Moms are wonderful, dear. Your Grand-mom sacrificed a lot to see me doing well in life. You mom is doing the same with you.

Daughter: I agree.

Dad: I look stressed or tired probably because I feel my primary role is to protect the family – financially and otherwise, today and tomorrow. That’s what is always present in my mind. And maybe, guys are made this way. It’s difficult for a man to look happy when there’s pressure from various avenues. Maybe we are hard-wired.

Daughter: Dad, but I think you take a lot of tension. You work hard every day and the money you earn goes into the investments you have made for me, which is great. But by doing so, you are always under stress. For instance, look at all the grey hair you have. I think you need to do what I do when I have a problem.

Dad: And what’s that?

Daughter: Go to a specialist! Like when I need something, food to eat or to apply lipstick / makeup or if I hurt myself while playing, I go to mom. I don’t know how she does it, but her presence makes me forget the pain. Football makes you forget your stress, so football is a specialist for you. Grey hair is now a problem for you, I suggest you blacken your hair. Why even make it black? Try some different shades, why not go to a specialist in this field to solve it?

Dad: OK. I take your point. 

Daughter: OK. But today’s discussion is about mom. I want to know how she hides her stress from me.

Dad: That’s because moms are selfless human-beings. In a world where every person you meet outside is selfish, here’s a lady who will go out of her way to ensure you are content and happy. You will surely realize the secret when you reach that stage.

Daughter: Now, we are taking this discussion out of scope. Its about my mom, not me being a mom some day! Let’s give it 2-3 decades from now. Garden, shall we?

Dad: Yeah sure, my princess!

*************** End of Conversation ***************

This is what I think my daughter (who is 2 years and 6 months old) will say when she starts understanding the sacrifices every mom goes through, to raise a child. These are exactly the same thoughts I have of my mom too. And I am sure many of the readers will agree. Moms are special. I don’t think there will be one special instance that stands out. Every single instance with my mom stands out, like it does for my daughter. 

They say God is omnipresent. I agree. But I also feel Mothers have a huge part to play in this.

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