Monday, February 28, 2011

A day after Chinnaswamy shone and cricket won

Ever since the world cup schedule was drawn, the 3110th one day international match was tagged as a marquee contest and the mouth watering ingredients of top forms, star players, venue shift and ticket controversy had cooked up for a humdinger but the probable top of the table clash did not present itself with any side effect clauses. However more than 12 hours after the high voltage dramatic finish that India and England transpired to produce at M. Chinnaswamy, Bangalore, emotionally drained minds, exhausted bodies, weak knees wanting for more and floating feelings gives a silhouette of the palpitation and tension that the participants went through courtesy the classic nail biter.

The hangover takes the thoughts back to the intense images of last evening and immediately the mind springs to action for a post mortem of field placements and permutation and combination of what would or would not have happened had an extra run been scored with the bat or a few extra runs saved on the field. On one side of the fan’s psyche, the feeling is flamboyant for being privileged to have witnessed 599 deliveries of an epical entertaining episode between two strong cup contenders but the other half, that of a parochial cricket lover is busy pacifying the soul for having got out of jail, after all with ordinary fielding and without any firepower to cause real time threat to the Englishmen, the bleed blue boys managed a tie from the jaws of defeat.

A few years back a score of 338 runs posted by the team batting first would have eliminated the anxieties of betting racquets, knowing exactly where to place their penny on but in 2011 on a flat sub continent track, with the evolutionised batting technology any score below 350 is just par. India was presented with an opportunity on a platter to set a total beyond reach but their inability to press the pedal and seal the advantage while being on the driver’s seat overshadowed the little master’s obsession for centuries; around which the batting revolved. Similarly when an international team was made to look like a club side while defending a comprehensive score, few questions cropped up immediately. With bowling resources as thin as setting Sun’s rays, this match removed the mask and exposed the naked reality of India’s bleak possibility of winning the cup that matters.

If MS Dhoni and boys have to do justice to all the hope that has been pinned on them then this was a much needed reality check to shake them up and the result communicates that there is a lot of ground to cover and editions to make. Though it was a good ploy to play three spinners yet the point could not be driven home on a ground which has produced India’s top two leg spinners. Piyush Chawala might be well backed by the team management but the sight of him coming to bowl with sweaty palms, nervous looking face and then delivering more than 51% of his quota of the deliveries on the wrong half of the pitch is not pleasant for a buoyant fan who has planned his calendar around 2nd April 2011.

With a mammoth total on the board, a much more attacking field was the need of the hour so that the bowlers would have got the license to go for the kill right from the outset, instead it was more of a defensive field and the runs kept leaking till the 40th over as Andrew Strauss through his classical innings along with Ian Bell sensed the crack in the wall and drove it open. A few more men in the ring would have changed the context of the game as was seen when a man at short mid wicket was placed for Yuvraj Singh’s left armers in the 41st over. Immediately the number of dot balls increased the pressure and the gap in the equation expanded forcing Strauss to opt for the batting power play. The batting power play once again proved to be a nemesis for the batting sides in both the innings. England’s crumbliness after the departure of Ian Bell and Andrew Strauss off successive deliveries was understandable considering the pressure that had been built in by the packed 40,000 crowd but what went wrong with India?

Sachin Tendulkar and Gautam Gambhir and then Yuvraj Singh and MS Dhoni set the ideal platform for the lower middle order batsmen to come and play a flurry of shots but that was not to be as against the run of play, the momentum was lost and in a space of 33 runs 7 wickets tumbled. This is one area India has to be careful in the remaining matches and cannot afford to slip up because this is where the team’s strength lies. However between all these glitches lies the minor issue of applying common sense and making it a mandate in the dressing room to bat out the 50 overs. Zaheer Khan’s thought process while facing the penultimate ball of the innings needs to be questioned. He not only got run out trying to force a second run when it was not on but also ran one short. He is no Harbhajan Singh and in situations like he was in, application of basic cricket brain should have taken precedence ahead of trying to go for the glory. There will be lifelong speculation of what would have happened had Munaf Patel got the strike and scored a boundary off the last delivery of the Indian innings but for now Ajmal Shahzad has become a household name across India and will always be an answer to various trivia questions that will be designed around that six, he hit off Munaf’s third ball in the 100th over of the match. The value of the point earned or lost from this contest will only be known depending on who finishes as group topper of the league stage and who their opponent is for the quarter final.

All in all, by the time the 5158th run of the 10th cricket world cup was scored and 4th tie of world cup cricket was secured, cricket had become richer and it augurs well for the competition. Special kudos have to be showered on Karnataka State Cricket Association for having fought their ways amidst controversies to facilitate a thrilling encounter and the energetic people of Bangalore deserve a round of applause whose sporty behavior has been rewarded with two top class world cup matches that are now a part of the cricketing folklore (read 1996 world cup Quarter Final match between arch rivals India and Pakistan).

On a personal note, I made up my absence at the stadium by teaming up with old mates in front of the television, with whom I have watched cricket matches for nearly 10 years now and the experience was tantalizing. Like a true adrenalin cricket junkie my mind is still fixated on yesterday and I have refrained myself from switching on the television today because then the high would lower and bubble would burst as no other cricket match for some time to come can present the extremities of the pendulum swinging from one side to another periodically. It will take some time for normal services to resume.

Link to the match -

Sidhanta Patnaik
28th February 2011, 5.06pm
Marthahalli, Bangalore

P.S – MS Dhoni is one of the shrewdest international cricket captains and a smart strategist. The technical points in this piece are mere observations from the other side of the white line and in no way intends to question MS Dhoni’s on field decisions. The writer is well aware that it is a different ball game altogether once you step inside the boundary.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Paying cricket fan deserves better treatment

Right from queuing up overnight for a ticket a few days before a contest to walking a fair distance to get to the parking area after the completion of the game, amidst pollution that can be the root for any airborne disease, it is quite a torturous process for anyone who has ever been to a stadium in India to experience its biggest entertainment spectacle – a cricket match featuring the national team. In spite of this painful journey the average Indian middle class has never failed to pay and honour its commitment of filling up the arena every time the clowns are brought to the town in their colorful attire for the circus. The marketers have lapped up this unassuming role of the fans and in an attempt to leverage their benefits have turned predators and injected greed into the business cycle. What is unfortunate however is that though the controlling boards (international, national, state) measure the pulse of this triangular relationship and have always grinned at the richness that the Indian fans generate for them yet they have purposefully failed to understand the importance of human quotient or have knowingly stayed away from a question that has been asked time and time again ever since Board for Control of Cricket (BCCI) became one of the richest sporting body of the world. Despite making cricket cash rich why is the Indian fan always taken for granted? The answer is not far away.

First of all to open the counters for selling a meager 7,000 tickets for the high profile India vs. England encounter at M. Chinnaswamy stadium on 27th February 2011 or for that case 3,000 tickets for the world cup finals in Mumbai is a systematic failure of the organizers to assess the demand for the world cup’s return to its financial haven after 15 years. One has to take into account the last minute shift of the Bangalore match from Kolkata but then the world noticed how the online ticketing agency’s website was made a mockery of when ten million people tried to get a hand on one of the thousand tickets available online for the final match. These incidents bring embarrassment to the world cup which is heavily dependent on the Indian mass to be a commercial success. It goes without mentioning that like any other business project there are sponsor deliverables and on top of that in the Indian context there are bureaucratic issues of massaging the egos of association members and local government authorities through free match passes but for that do the fans have to compromise? Like any other professional venture why cannot the fans be treated as kings in the cricket economics of the subcontinent, is it that difficult?

The episodes that have transpired over the last week clearly indicates that the organizers at three levels (ICC, BCCI, state associations) have not worked in tandem for a foolproof plan with respect to the ticket distribution arrangement and it was a matter of time before the media brought it out to the open. The audacity of Mumbai’s mayor to demand for a certain number of free passes for the finals and the reasoning behind it or the detention of two Karnataka State Cricket Association officials for their alleged role in selling match tickets at an inflated price in the black market gives a fair idea of how tickets are freely available in the air but still far from reach to the common man.

When news such as these make headlines it brings bad name to the state association for which it becomes their prerogative to set the house in order. It is time for boards to look beyond voting banks, visualize the big picture and operate like a corporate house does. As an on ground partner for ICC events their priority should be on fan satisfaction and issuing free passes to members should be restricted to minimum number and done on a pro-rata basis. At the same time it should be ICC’s responsibility to set the guidelines and take charge of the situation instead of being allowed to be kicked like a sponge ball between state and national political wires. Similarly ICC should also rethink on its terms and conditions and negotiate on free pass deliverables to its sponsors. Tapering with the quota system is bound to rage the privileged class but the big question of who is the heart beat of the game; the members or the mass needs to be asked. From an honest answer, the change will stem down the system and the ripple effect will finally make the cricket business bigger than the personalities running it and with it the magnitude of respect will grow.

The corporate representatives in suits inside glass boxes have always come to the ground to cut a deal or oblige a partner and that does not do the game any good from a socio-cultural aspect. Therefore ICC’s single motto should be to ensure that more and more paying public walk through the turnstile. For the junta (mass) who are the real lovers of the game the result of the match has always been incidental, instead the joy of seeing a player from a distance, clicking a photo with the ground as the backdrop or being captured on the giant screen is what creates an experience of lifetime for them and it should not be that difficult for a sports body to understand the long term profits of such a mind set. The fans not only add benevolent colour to the buzz and excitement around the stadium but a full house is the single most effective tool to help a broadcaster earn credible TRP rating across the globe and if not for anything else but for this role of theirs, fans deserve more respect and better treatment.

At another level the brutal behavior on the fans by the local police every time they line up over a night with a hope of ‘winning a ticket’ against the race is something that needs to stop. The recent media images of police lathicharging the fans outside M. Chinnaswamy stadium; Bangalore is a shame to a land where cricket is the biggest connecting factor. For any Indian who has been a part of that rooster camp at some point of their life and has felt the stick on the backside of the body will relate to the pinch of ego, after all only a criminal deserves such action. It does not happen in South Africa or England or Australia then why do the Indian fans go through the ordeal when they are the one’s contributing maximum to the kitty?

It boils down to the administrators to show the right intent, put their heads together, study the best practices of iconic sporting properties and work out a logistical plan that is peaceful and free from the element of nightmare. Once the quantity of tickets to be sold is reached after accommodating the free passes, the number and the process of ticket sales should be made public. Each buyer should be entitled for a solitary ticket hence negating any threat of black market. The gates to the ticket camp can open one night before the counters start operating and each fan on walking into the camp will be given a colour differentiated token depending on his/her choice of seat denomination. Just like in Wimbledon, fans can come to the camp with their canopies and other basic amenities and have a good time around it. Once the number of tokens issued matches with the tickets available, the entry to the camp should be closed. The fans have to queue as per the token number. As soon as the sun rises, the queues can start moving in the direction of the ticket counter, aided by volunteers and that would avoid any chaos and help in making the fan’s journey an enjoyable one. Just imagine the goodwill and coverage the association who implements such a plan will earn by the time the last ticket is sold at the counter.

The cricket loving people of India have always been treated like cattle for no fault of theirs but like the true nature of this democracy they have let it go and moved on however the new generation which has access to the world at their finger tips has a different mentality. They demand respect, comfort, luxury and value for what they pay. If the approach of the authorities towards the queuing public does not change in the near future then the younger generation will eventually be driven away from the stands and the repercussions of such a move will ultimately deplete the cricketing vibrancy of the country right from the gullies (lanes) to the living rooms to the international level and tomorrow our beloved sport will be dead and buried. Typing such a line makes the monitor look like a scary battle field and to avoid it in real, the administrators have to wake up now to the new demands.

Sidhanta Patnaik
26th February 2011, 12.19am
Marthahalli, Bangalore

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Bravo, Tahir & a cricket match

All the cricket statistics for the next seven weeks might be emanating from the moment the clock struck 2.30pm as per Indian standard time on 19th February 2011 when Virender Sehwag characteristically hit the first ball of the 10th cricket world cup for a boundary to the extra cover region, but it is only after 2698 runs, 83 wickets and 496.5 overs and 6 one sided encounters were produced that the real moment arrived. If the first six days of the competition were meant for the fans to get into the zone of reviving their viewing habits then the next four days starting today can be categorically termed as the base on which the popularity of the world cup hinges on. If the Trans-Tasman rivalry of Australia and New Zealand or the keenness of a challenge between Sri Lanka and Pakistan or a marquee contest between India and England fails to arouse the interest level of a fan, then nothing probably will but to reach there one had to first witness the teaser that West Indies’ opening clash against South Africa offered to start an early weekend for cricket lovers.

On paper and as per the ICC ranking the result of the 7th match of the cup seemed to be a no brainer and that is how the match lived up to with the Proteas registering a comprehensive 7 wicket win hence achieving their first win over the Caribbean team in an ICC event. It was a true reflection of the downward slide that West Indies cricket has been through for more than a decade now.

West Indies cricket now is the benchmark for institutional failure in the sporting world but today for a span of 23 overs it looked like the Sun was about to rise once again over the Calypso island. Whoever witnessed the 111 runs 2nd wicket partnership between Devon Smith and Darren Bravo will not only vouch for the fluency that was on display but will also assure you that there were two talents on the park who are potentially ready to take their country’s cricket into the new horizon.

The 22 year old Darren Bravo’s 82 ball innings had class written all over it and that needs a special mention. The calmness on his face walking in after the dismissal of Chris Gayle in the first over is something that has been lacking in the West Indies line up for long. His temperament is what looks like to be his biggest asset and it was visible in his ability to rotate strike and simultaneously play fearless shots all across the wickets and keep the score board ticking. His drives off the square of the wicket reminisced comparison with the legend Brian Lara and for someone playing in his 14th One day international it is a true moment of reckoning. His perfect back lift and level headedness while playing shots marks him as a talent for the future. Just when everyone glued into their television, being refreshed by the original Calypso style batting was wishing how the party would continue Bravo misjudged a Botha delivery to be dismissed leg before wicket for an entertaining 73 and it was not long before the bubble burst and West Indies were left to defend a meager total of 222.

On the other side, there was a 31 years old man who having made his first class debut in 1997 and played in 261 matches at a level below international level for 19 teams was still unsure of his future till the last calendar year. With the arrival of the new year he not only became a legal South African citizen but was also gifted with a life that he had dreamt for ever since he spun a cricket ball from middle stump to off stump. Having travelled between Pakistan, England and South Africa to realize his ultimate dream of playing international cricket, Lahore born Imran Tahir is an epitome of journeyman cricketer. Mixing personal life with profession might not be a good idea but it is his marriage with a South African lady that helped him earn the country’s citizenship and the fact that he got a call up to the national team as soon as his legal formalities were completed gives a clear picture of the credibility he had built over 13 years and 547 first class wickets is a testimony of his skills and demand.

In a team that banks upon seamers to do the job more often than not there can be no assurance to the international career graph for this leg spinner but by taking four wickets on debut and displaying the spirit of an attacker he has finally done justice to that solitary opportunity that he had been looking for a lifetime now. Tomorrow Imran Tahir may or may not be a legend but 24th February 2011 will be a day for innumerous journeyman cricketers to draw inspiration from and continue their perusal towards earning an international cap. In a matter of few weeks Imran has become synonym of hope and motivation and that is itself a worthwhile achievement to earn someone a name for life.

May this world cup continue to produce many more such talents.

Darren Bravo’s profile -

Imran Tahir’s profile -

Sidhanta Patnaik

24th February 2011, 11.19pm

Marthahalli, Bangalore

P.S – Today is exactly a year since Sachin Tendulkar scored 200* in the Gwalior ODI against South Africa and it also marks my one year of cricket writing.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Sourav Ganguly – Refreshing the face of Indian Commentary

For a country obsessed with its cricketers and contributing a lion’s share in enhancing the game’s richness, it is surprising that not many Indian cricketers have managed to ride on the wave after their on field sell by date. Except for Sunil Gavaskar and Ravi Shastri hardly has any Indian cricketer done justice to their ability of narrating and analyzing the game from the other side of the boundary line. Among the players who hung their boot after 1995 it is only Sanjay Manjrekar who comes close to comparison to the two microphone stalwarts. Barring a few who have been promising with still a lot to prove, others have either failed to express their thoughts appropriately or have been criticized for their associations with media houses that use cricket as a tool to enhance the TRP ratings of their ‘soap operas’.

Australia’s Channel 9 and England Sky Sports’ have been the favored employment destination for their cricketers who have wished to associate themselves with the game after retiring without being directly involved but the Indian scenario is quite contrasting. Not only did Board for Control of Cricket in India (BCCI) have no constant broadcaster for its home matches for long till Neo Sports’ emergence, but the communication skills which is the oxygen for an ex cricketer have always raised questions about their credibility beyond playing the game, probably the two key reasons why popular names have slipped into oblivion until handed over a honorary post by the board.

The taken for granted Indian audience’s patience was slowly hitting the roof top and the reviews of the broadcasters was visible on social networking sites where fans have openly shared their dismay ever since the medium has been made available to them, over the quality and content of the voice that brought the game into the living rooms. Not only had the Indian Premier League (IPL) made the commentators worthy a sales manager of a fast moving consumer good (FMCG) company but for an intelligent cricket watcher who keeps a tab of the telecast in Australia, South Africa and England, India formed the bottom end of the expected standards axis. The monotony had to be broken for better ratings and financial interest, if not for anything else and if anyone has heard to Sourav Ganguly in the two world cup match analysis shows that he has featured in so far has to congratulate ESPN Star for their master stroke.

The present generation hardly remembers watching Ravi Shastri or Sunil Gavaskar bat, but Sourav Ganguly remains fresh in their memories. Right from his burst into the international circuit with his Lord’s special in 1996 till his retirement in 2008 hardly has any other cricket divided opinions, the way he has. As a captain he was pivotal in setting the foundation for India’s resurgence as a top cricket team and allowed his hand picked boys to redefine the meaning of aggression and body language. The approach not only stirred the emotion of the entire nation but also invited for handful of controversies and he soon became a synonym for India’s attitudinal shift from gentlemen to ‘give back what you take’ boys, especially after his Lord’s balcony antics on 13th July 2002.

A slight observation confirms that nothing much has changed in his role as an analyst at ESPN Star’s studio. He may not be artistic but he is blunt, straightforward and is willing to call spade, a spade. His technical view points on game situations not only leave you wondering the reasoning skills he possesses but also leaves you wanting for more. Having played his last first class as recently as December 2010 and with 424 international match experience he brings in a sense of fresh air into an atmosphere that had become stagnant for quite some time now. His insights from dressing room perspective; trusted bait for listeners since the evolution of sports commentary, have not only kept the audience on their toes but also have given the fans an entry into the thought process of the cricketers featuring in this world cup.

The passion in his presentation is visible and if his progress is at the rate what one is seeing then it won’t be late before he earns another set of original fan base for his new profession. He has got an entry into a much bigger gamut which would have been far from possible had he been picked up by any of the franchisee for the fourth edition of IPL and knowing his penchant for the big stage, this is just the beginning of his second calling. Tomorrow if the world witnesses Sachin Tendulkar or Rahul Dravid in the commentator avatar then Dada deserves to be credited for opening yet another flood gate.

May the breed grow and continue to spice up cricket discussions across living rooms.

Sidhanta Patnaik
21st February 2011
Marthahalli, Bangalore

P.S: As I am about to publish this piece Harsha Bhogle, Dermot Reeve and Sunil Gavaskar wished him on his wedding anniversary

Harsha Bhogle - The voice of Indian cricket

The animated celebration of the first two days of the world cup 2011 is a testament of cricket’s meaning in the sub continent. In this part of the world though poverty stares at most levels of the society due to unfavourable demand and supply equation yet all the worries stand still and joy takes over the moment the bat hits the ball. The Afridis, Muralis, Shakibs and Sachins have not only brought familiarity across the geographical stretch but have continuously offered entertaining content which has acted as a soothing balm in an otherwise black and white environment where the top priority has always been about the day’s next commitment. Just like the giants, the game has also produced a few who without ever having donned the national jersey have managed to enter our households. If in this world cup, after a long gap viewers are slowing starting to switch on their television set for the pre match analysis and stay glued to it right up to the completion of the post match analysis then the sole reason behind it is the screen presence of Harsha Bhogle, who incidentally is covering his 7th world cup.

For some one who has played cricket at the University level, his cricketing skills can be termed as above average but that does not earn him his stripes. It is his ability to give words to the character of a master’s straight drive or a wily foxes’ doosra that connects him with the emotion of more than a billion. Cricket had always united the sub continent but there was a lack of a story teller who could add color to the pictures and showcase the expression of the mass to the world. Till the 1990’s Indian parents were influenced by the air of conservatism that the country’s economy projected and that restricted young brains to career options in either technical, administration or medical field in pursuit of secured future but much before liberalization Harsha Bhogle had defied the trend by earmarking his area of specialization in a domain that was yet to be introduced to the middle class.

Today when illusionary notions like peer pressure, parental dreams, packages, financial security have made job placements around educational institutions a mockery and have robbed creative independence out of career graphs one can only leave it to imagination of what would have happened had IIM branded Chemical engineer Harsha Bhogle opted for the tested instead of taking the unexplored territory. Like every dreamer he had his shares of risk and hard days. Not only did he quit his advertising job but at the age of 19 in 1991 he had to domestically fund his trip to down under to work alongside Australian Broadcasting Corporation as his employer All India Radio were unable to offer financial assistance. Just like history luck favoured him as being Alan Border’s ghost writer for the tour gave him a golden opportunity to pick on his brain. Later on when Disney’s ESPN entered India in 1995, he got his first big break and since then there has been no looking back. In 16 years that have passed by he has established himself and created a niche for his profession to be titled as the voice of Indian cricket.

His title is far from being officially accredited but it is the people who have bestowed the honor on him and there is a reason behind it. His role in the game goes beyond the statistics that emanates from the cricket field. His unique talent of making composite look simple and relate with the fans differentiates him from many others analysts visible across television channels. If today cricket is the way of life for a large number of Indians who claim to know more about London or Melbourne than the respective country’s locals then a major credit goes to Harsha Bhogle who along with his friend Gautam Bhimani has been the best geography teacher of our times. Informing and sharing facts and images from Auckland to Bridgetown and effectively negating the difficulties of waking up late or sleeping at the wee hours by mastering the art of assimilating the opinions of legends have embedded him into every cricket follower’s nerve system in the sub continent.

Self awareness and working efficiently within limitations by sharing forthright views, packaging his team of presenters and connecting the experts with the fans instead of trying to be one has been his biggest strength that has enabled him to hold his own ground when squeezed in between 10,122 test runs and 916 international wickets in front of the camera. His ability to sport a naturally broad smile and using appropriate words to communicate without ever cutting into anyone’s space makes him loveable and a modern day icon. If today his views on the game are considered as a benchmark then it has a lot to do with his quality educational background and valued upbringing which gives him the freedom to alternatively switch between cricket and real life. His background allows him to accept anyone from an ex cricketer to a cameraman on ground as a teacher and learn from the environment and it has been one of the key reasons behind his longevity in the circuit dating back to much before Tendulkar took guard in Sialkot.

For anyone who follows him on twitter and has truly understood the language of his 80 odd minutes IIM-A address or of his articles on print and electronic media will acknowledge that sense has always prevailed in his successful journey. They give an insight into the dynamics of brand Harsha Bhogle and proves that for such a person accomplishments cannot be a fluke.

The brand is a symbol of hope and light for every dreamer as he epitomizes the true meaning of living one’s passion. Though he belongs to a depleting tribe of non cricketers on the big stage, it is his optimism that inspires many around him who at best are top class gully cricketers to aspire of a career in the game in a role beyond taking strike or shining the cherry.

If Richie Benaud is for Australia, Jonathan Agnew is for England and Tony Cozier is to West Indies then Harsha Bhogle surely deserves to be India’s flag bearer in this category. For someone who believes that praises for a person should be shared with him/her much before the judgment day which usually is the society’s norm, the biggest compliment comes from the horses’ mouth himself:

“I can’t be Tendulkar but mind you Tendulkar can’t be me either.”

Link to Harsha Bhogle's IIM- A address:

Sidhanta Patnaik
21st February 2011
Marthahalli, Bangalore

Friday, February 18, 2011

Sachin’s Ton & Dream: From 18th to 19th February

18th February takes me back by 15 years to the summer of 1996. Those were the days before the marketers had laid the strict dictum of scheduling all of India matches as day nighters in marquee stadiums. The commercial dynamics were evolving and within Board for Control of Cricket in India’s (BCCI) permutation and combination tier B cities were allotted their share of big time cricket, a rarity these days as the format of this year’s world cup suggests. The images of that morning are still fresh in my memories.

The 1992 world cup’s razzmatazz appeal had colored the world and India was bubbling with excitement and anticipation as the next edition came home after four years. As per the tournament fixture Mohammed Azharuddin’s India were scheduled to play their first match against Maurice Odumbe’s Kenya at Barabati stadium, Cuttack; just an hour’s drive for my residence. On being educated about this my thrill knew no bounds and with just a solo live stadium experience prior to that of an international match featuring players in white attire, I was fantasizing and reassuring about my prospects of being there at the stadium to witness my first pyjama cricket match. The unknown quotient of world cup debutants Kenya, the African spirit of their fans and India’s expected dominance set the buzz around the stadium and made the experience enriching but what makes the day eternally memorable is Sachin Tendulkar’s maiden world cup century.

Before the world cup the Tendulkar phenomena had yet to grip the nation’s demographic in entirety. Though marked as a prodigy yet his scores had not gained the weight to reflect the mood of a billion and his bat’s fascia still did not have a sponsor logo. Having made his debut in 1989 he had played a miniscule role in the disastrous 1992 world cup campaign and with 3212 runs and 4 centuries from 102 matches there was still a lot to establish. The 1996 world cup came at the right juncture of his career, just when he was looking for the first big stage to showcase his credentials as a truly international icon. 18th February 1996 happens to be that red lettered day when he scored his first world cup century (127*) and with it the juggernaut that started rolling continues to mesmerize the world without any signs of slowing down.

How he rose to conquer every target that was once considered impossible and its overall impact on the country’s post liberalized macro economics are something that is there to be seen felt and cherished; today it forms a part of bed time stories for nursery kids. 1996 world cup defined the Sachin Tendulkar that the world was to see in the coming years. Not only did he become the highest scorer of that tournament (523 runs) but also rewrote his record in 2003 by scoring more than 600 runs and today with 1796 runs from 36 world cup matches he stands unparalleled and peerless. Let it be the swashbuckling 137* against Sri Lanka at Feroz Shah Kotla in the same world cup or an emotionally draining 140* against Kenya in 1999 after completing his father’s funeral or the appeasing 98 against Pakistan in 2003 after a series of sleepless nights or taking the attack to Andrew Caddick and company, all these accomplishments have made brand SRT a part of ICC’s world cup lexicon but on that distant afternoon in Cuttack when the base was being built for the future the singular thought in his mind would have been to carry the bat through and produce a match winning innings for the country.

Exactly a day after a decade and half since that century, in his 21st year in the international circuit he will become the second cricketer after Javed Miandad to feature in six editions of the world cup and once he walks into the park against Bangladesh he will be the most capped One Day International (ODI) cricketer surpassing Sanath Jayasuriya’s 444 match appearances. His longevity and consistency is a symbol of adaptability, concentration and single mindedness focus on the goal, it is a sheer example of perfect implementation of skills in four continents that he had honed at Shivaji Park and continues to polish at MIG Grounds or MCA Grounds in Bandra. With an international experience of 32000 plus runs and 97 centuries tomorrow he will embark on a mission for probably (probably because if he wishes then playing in 2015 world cup is attainable) the last time in the blue jersey towards realizing his unfulfilled dream of lifting the world cup on 2nd April 2011 at his backyard; Wankhede stadium, Mumbai. Ever since he made his thoughts known to the public, winning the world cup has become a mass aspiration but it is time for common sense to prevail.

For a country that has grown on Tendulkar these are indications of preparing towards the Sun set. Any day from today the little master might be playing in his last ODI and now is the appropriate time to once again stand up and salute the diminutive genius and the best way of articulating it would be to allow him to enjoy last phase of a voyage that has brought happiness to countless souls across boundaries. The new decade has convinced the fans that the hopes of winning the world cup are no more pinned on the shoulders of one individual but depends on the precise execution of game plan by 11 men and this will probably be the first time in his career that Sachin Tendulkar will be accompanied by ten equally competitive team mates to share the responsibilities of performance. Lastly the faster the mass realizes that the world cup has to be won for the country and not for Tendulkar, the better are the prospects for their favourite son’s dream coming true.

Many years from now when I will be sharing Sachinlore to my grand children; as much as I will talk about that chilly morning of February 1994 in Auckland when he opened an innings for the first time or the Ganesh Chaturthi evening of September 1994 in Colombo when he scored his maiden century against Australia that much I will be expressing them of how lucky I was to have witnessed live the master blaster’s first world cup ton at Barabati stadium, Cuttack on 18th February 1996.

Sidhanta Patnaik

18th February 2011,6.25pm

Marthahalli, Bangalore

Link to the match against Kenya on 18th February 1996:

Statistics courtesy

Celebration of Cricket - World Cup Opening Ceremony

Today is a day of celebration for the entire cricket world as the editions of world cup entered double digits. The opening ceremony which officially marked the beginning of the 10th edition of the cup delivered high valued entertainment which has not only left every one impressed but also has made news for its precise execution. Sports and art have always complemented each other since their evolution but as history suggests International Cricket Council’s (ICC) relationship with ceremonies to mark events have not been occasions to savour. Let it be the Eden Garden’s pitch controversy in 1996 world cup or 1999’s weather interference at Lord’s or 2003’s drag every time ICC had ventured beyond its domain there were eyebrows raised with respect to the real need for such failed attempts of celebration. As the hype built up around this year’s world cup the world was staring with suspicion and a lot was at stake for ICC.

All doubts were put to rest as the spectacular opening ceremony at Bangladesh’s historically rich Bangabandhu stadium not only enthralled the packed house and the one billion households over 180 territories courtesy Espn Star Sports (ESS) live feed but also left a huge impact on the economic value and cultural image of the host country. Tonight Sharad Pawar and company can heave a sigh of relief.
For a young nation which gained independence in 1971 today was its time for glory. Being the only sport where their national team features in the world cup it had to be cricket that brought them the big moment they had been waiting for long. Today for a change the world did not point out at the country’s slow on field progress but stood up to appreciate the energy and enthusiasm that blew in the air and saluted the endeavor of every citizen to make the day historic. It is a moment of pride for a country where cricket is the biggest connector among various classes of the society. Right from the time when the country’s national anthem was sung which was the opening act till the last performance of the evening the glitter in the eyes of every Bangladeshi communicated the delight they took in being host to the 14 nations and a smile on their face confirmed their dream of having an international ‘I was there’ moment written down in their diary had finally come true.

Taking the captains of 14 teams to the center stage in rickshaws accompanied by kids struck chord with the entire country where public transport still largely is dependent on manual labor. The captains on the stage with their chest upright was a visual that signified the meaning of the world cup, it is indeed the cup that matters. Just when the anticipation from the evening was reaching its crescendo the tempo had to be broken in true sub continental style and that was the sole dampener of the evening.

Public events in this part of the world are more about political mileages and there was no way the world cup could escape it. Four men who are primarily politicians holding honorary positions as cricket administrators and the head of the state spoilt the momentum with their long speeches that could have been easily avoided. The crowd was least bothered of the address and was busier with antics wishing to be captured on the giant screen for a moment’s fame; the captains were engrossed in their own world thinking of the big days that lie ahead but none on the dais made an attempt to notice the pulse, after all the agendas were fixed. As predictable there were requests for grants, appreciations, ego massages, self praise for the hard work and congratulatory messages which ideally suit the script of a closing ceremony. If ICC had thought that by having Bryan Adams, Shankar-Eshan-Loy, Sonu Nigam and other big names it can get away with the monotonous nature of the speeches then it for sure lost a few points there. However considering the political hassles they operate within it is unfair to blame them or the four Bangladeshi speakers for their time in front of the microphone since this was their first tryst with international glitz and glamour. Claps that followed were more of a sign of respite. It is either time to stop such farce or grow beyond it and there is no better time than now to pass a resolution wherein ceremonial speeches in public events do not exceed beyond a minute or two. Assigning psychologists to tutor politicians on an average human being’s grasping capacity would solve a few problems too.

The trusted route of showcasing the colorful tradition and vibrant culture of the three host countries livened up the audience whose interest levels were slowly sliding. The seamless assimilation of the artists from one performance to another depicting the heritage and history of the sub continent, the melodious tunes of prominent singing sensations, dazzling fire works and the innovative concept of Ariel cricket lit like bright stars on a clear night. For the first time cricket was played on air though virtually by real men and the depiction deserved to be on the tallest building of Dhaka that had been the backdrop of Bangladesh cricket for so many years before the base shifted to Mirpur.

All in all the sub continent lived up to the expectation and Wizcraft International Entertainment yet again enhanced its reputation. Every body who witnessed the evening got good value for a Thursday entertainment and it surely boosted the spirit of the 14 nations for whom business begins day after tomorrow for the next 45 days. Many years from now when a player from the sub continent makes it big in the international arena and attributes his success to the energy that rubbed him on 17th February 2011 will ICC know whether it was able to break its jinx with ceremonies entirely or not.

Time for Cricket to begin.

Sidhanta Patnaik
Thursday, 17 February 2011 at 23:59, Bangalore

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Dark side of a 'First Class' cricketer

At a time when a former cricketer has got into legal problems for alleged domestic violence it strikes a sense of fright among the country’s cricketing community and raises a few questions instantaneously. Are the country’s cricketers good human beings? Does fame permit them to take things for granted? Are their head at the right place? Is their off field conduct not important? These are delicate and debatable topics with far reaching implications in a country where cricket is a religion and cricketers are worshipped and looked up to. Out of all the revered only a handful go on to represent the country while majority of them end their career with staggering performances at the first class level. In spite of being domestic giants there is a sense of frustration written on their face for having failed to make it to the level that really matters and many a times they make it visible through the way they carry themselves. However the sliding self esteem is soon uplifted by the neighbourhood who celebrate the established status of the cricketer as if it is a collective effort of the local chaiwallah to the corner grocery shop owner to the doctor residing two houses away. These ‘first class’ cricketers are pampered with rich provincial status and everything, from the car they drive to the T-shirt they wear becomes a sign of status. These peripheral indulgence enjoyed by the cricketer influences five out of ten youngsters to be one of the seekers of luxury in spite of limited cricketing abilities; after all fame is such an easy lure and a fresh brain picks up what it senses in the air.

These first class cricketers are very much knowledgeable about their role as opinion leaders and impact in their geographical stretch and love being role models as their inner self reminds them of the childhood days, when they were on the other side of table filled with awe and respect for their seniors. Being public figures much of their appearances are stoic but the grin when amongst their peers affirms how much they relish their success. All is well as long as on field statistics of runs scored and wickets taken are being talked about but not long after the discussion shifts to character and mannerism many of the collars that were fluttering with pride come down and shame surrounds the background.

What goes wrong for such exceptionally gifted craftsmen as soon as they step on to the other side of the white line calls for thorough research but a little bit of probing delivers answers that are not out of the world. The Indian set up is such that, very early in their career kids are told whether they have it in them to make it big as a cricketer or not and if they are on the right side of the judgment then being fast tracked into the talent pool is the obvious next step. Unfortunately with that the basic necessity of completing quality formal education becomes a secondary objective, which remains unattained till the player becomes successful and uses his string in the system to obtain the certificate; by which time the value of that esteemed paper would have nullified. Early access to independence courtesy their on-field machismo and subsequent accolades subconsciously trap their egos and slowly the false sense of being bigger than life and getting away with wrong doing takes over. Much before they realize resentment would have become their best companion and on being questioned or told about subjects much beyond their specialization they welcome it with volatile behavior and unreasonable attitude.All this breeds the fear of being rejected which like a venomous snake poisons the player’s thought process and gradually closes the door on good days. How much ever a cricketer learns about values, culture and team work by being on the field yet there are still a few elementary lessons to pick up from within the four walls of a classroom.

Unlike any other profession, a cricketer’s life is much different as his entire career is an unedited format of a reality show. The pressure to perform or perish is humongous and every time he gets out of his shed to fetch the family’s bread and butter he attunes his brain to thrive on the adrenalin rush that comes along with the job. Entering the zone is much like being high on an abandoned substance and as the game gets over or career terminates, the kick fades. Immediately withdrawal symptom sets in as all the adulation and recognition that were routine grants are swapped by blankness and a mirror to look at. However big the performer might be on field, this is his toughest test and the blatant truth is that far from few have managed to undergo the transition without showing any signs of conflict.

For anyone who knows such cricketers at a personal level will vouch for the fact that the childlike innocence that had sparked the journey many years back still drives them but it cannot be denied that somewhere down the line their minds have been allowed to elude from the real world and get lost as clowns in the circus of vicious circle. Every time a ‘first class’ cricketer makes it to the news for wrong reason it threatens the country’s lifeline and brings into the discussion of who should be monitoring the timeline of the young kids coming off the block who are absorbing the good, the bad and the ugly with equal intensity? As much as it is the responsibility of the cricket clubs where careers flourish, the primary ownership lies with the parents to ensure that cricket does not become an obsession to be possessed at any cost but an alternate mean to enjoy just like any other good thing in life. Lives of many on field stalwarts have been dismantled and any more casualties will not only be a bad advertisement for the game’s legacy but will also shatter a generation of dreams. Indian streets need more ‘first class’ cricketers.

Sidhanta Patnaik

Monday, February 14, 2011

Change of Cricket

The last time the cricket world cup was hosted in the sub continent was in 1996. 15 years have passed by and as big time international cricket makes a comeback to its financial haven here is a look at 20 things that have changed in 50 over cricket ever since.

Field restrictions: Today field restriction is known by its new name of power play. From one block of 15 overs, it has increased to three blocks of a total of 20 overs . The first 10 overs are compulsory wherein like the previous rule two fielders are allowed outside the 30 yard circle and two more fielders have to be in compulsory catching position, 15 yards from the bat. The other two blocks of five overs each are named as fielding power play and batting power play which are at the disposal of the fielding captain and batting side respectively. However unlike the first 10 overs in these blocks the fielding captain can have three fielders outside the 30 yard circle and there is no compulsion to have fielders in catching position

Gone are the whites: Whatever little ODIs were being played in white attire, red ball and in front of white sight screen that also was sucked in by the power of commercialization. Today red ball limited overs cricket is like an extinct species

Constitution of a match: Those days each team had to face a minimum of 25 overs for an ODI match to produce a result. Today a minimum of 20 overs faced by each side makes a match legitimate. Talk about the influence of Twenty20 cricket!

Off shore venues: For anyone who was seen matches in Sharjah, Toronto, Singapore, Morocco and other offshore venues will never forget the celebratory atmosphere. Big time cricket was marked for a certain period in every calendar year and that brought the big stars to the town and it was party time for anyone and everyone in that city. Gone are those days where top cricketers went to such venues and injected the spirit of the game into the veins of many who were not as fortunate as their counterparts in the test playing nations. Some attribute illegal business as a reason for ICC’s decision to stop cricket at off shore venues but it remains to be one of the biggest loss for pyjama cricket.

ICC Champions Trophy: Cricket’s popularity was rising and one world cup was not able to meet the appetite of the ever hungry passionate Asian crowd. ICC too wanted to derive maximum commercial benefit in this uneven balance between demand and supply, hence came ICC Champions Trophy into existence. In many ways it has become the poor man’s world cup, a tournament to aspire for every team who could not lay their hand on the previous world cup.

More runs: Initially if runs were scored off a no ball then the penalty run for the no ball was not added to the scoreboard but today a separate penalty run for no ball is awarded to the batting side apart from the runs scored either off bat or any other part of the body.

Free Hit:
Free hit for a front foot no ball was something even the biggest visionary of the game would not have visualized then but T20 cricket changed it all. Entertainment at the expense of the bowler’s sin became the norm but this rule has helped the bowlers to be more disciplined and today hardly anyone oversteps.

Ball Change: White ball get soiled up easily and as the game became more intense viewing clarity for the batsmen became an issue to be addressed. Today the white ball is compulsorily changed after 35 overs in each innings.

Cheer for bowlers: Now bowlers are allowed to bowl one bouncer per over hence giving them more armor in their arsenal. It has come as a sigh of relief for the bowlers at a time when boundary lines are getting shorter by the season.

Super Subs: They came, they played, and they left. An experiment that was never designed to work.

Switch hit: Who said right handers and not good left handers. Kevin Pietersen changed the notion for good and convinced the law makers that changing stance before the bowler delivers is well within the laws of the game.

Impossible is nothing:
A batsman has gone on to score 32321 international runs, 200* in a single ODI innings, 96 international centuries, another batsman has scored an ODI century in 37 balls and a bowler has gone on to take 1319 international wickets – All these feats were considered impossible in 1996.

Electronic scoreboards: Gone are the days when the curator’s son used to double as the manual scoreboard operator for a bargain of watching the stars play free of cost. Today ICC has made it a mandate for every ground to haves a giant electronic scoreboard which flashes the minutest on ground detail as it occurs. Not only has it reduced the seating capacity but also taken away the charm that only a player can associate with an old rugged scoreboard.

More than third umpire: The role of third umpires has gone beyond calls on stumping, run out and other line decisions.

Support staff:
Someone once told that at international cricketers need not be told what to do, they know their job pretty well. It has been proved wrong as today every team carries a minimum of 5 support staff. Once upon a time the same job was being done by one tour manager-cum-coach. Talk about job specialization.

Technology: Role of technology has increased threefold in modern day cricket. Every team plays the game as much on the computer screen as much on ground. Plus the introduction of tools like snicko meter, hot spot, pitch map and what not has made players machine operated performers.

Television: With so much cricket happening across the globe and the ever increasing demand channel owners have gone on from sports broadcasting to cricket narrowcasting. The advent of Star Cricket, Neo Cricket and Ten Cricket justifies the point.

Paying crowd at a bay: Like every other thing administrators have invested millions in safety and security to ensure that the crowd behavior is also mechanized. No more a passionate fan is allowed to get on to the ground to share his/her emotion with the favourite player who (s) he has come to watch for a price. No more are matches delayed because of crowd interference.

Bet and caught: Fixing a match or a spot as the latest trend was discovered was hidden under the carpet by the very own players who many worshipped as idols but now the rabbit is out of the hat. Strong anti corruption measures taken by ICC to eradicate malignancy makes the game much more sane than ever before.

Commerce drive: Cricket has extensively become a seller’s market especially from the context of the paying Indian public. Everything that was not sponsored those days is now branded. From boundary ropes to player attire to TV screens to every possible element are now priced. Neon flash boards have replaced the good old perimeter boards, commentators have become salesmen, scripts have become predictable and the guest list at the presentation ceremony has increase from handful to houseful. More marketing means more money but with it the game has lost a major share of old charm.

Sidhanta Patnaik

14th February 2011,10.42pm

Marthahalli, Bangalore

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Know Your 14 World Cup Teams

The 10th edition of the ICC Cricket World Cup is probably the most open tournament in a long time and the time is just appropriate to have a sneak preview of the 14 teams that will be vying for top honors from 19th February to 2nd April 2011.


Australia: Just when they were being written down after the Ashes debacle they struck back with a vengeance in the ODI series and stamped their class and authority hence making the statement that of a defending world champion. If their tally of world cup trophies ascends from four to five in this edition then consider it as no miracle. Seasoned campaigner Ricky Ponting has a few points to prove and will be hungrier than ever before considering this will be his last world cup. The batting looks rock solid and if a fit Mike Hussey makes it to the sub continent then along with Michael Clarke will form the core of their lineup. Cameron White has enough exposure in the prevailing conditions courtesy his IPL stint to deliver some lusty blows during the death overs. Brett Lee’s experience and Doug Bollinger’s penchant for swing bowling make their attack lethal. Mitchell Johnson and John Hastings, still a relatively unknown component in the international circuit can tie up loose ends when demanded. Though their spin department looks fragile on paper expect them to rise to the occasion.
*Squad: Ricky Ponting ©, Michael Clarke, Doug Bollinger, Brad Haddin (wk), John Hastings, Nathan Hauritz, David Hussey, Michael Hussey, Mitchell Johnson, Brett Lee, Tim Paine (wk), Steven Smith, Shaun Tait, Shane Watson, Cameron White
Young talent to watch out for: Doug Bollinger
Cup chances: 9/10
World cup track record (1975-2007): Played – 69, Won – 51, Lost – 17, Tied – 1
Best world cup performance: Champions in 1987, 1999, 2003, 2007
Last ODI performance: Beat England 6-1 in the 7 match home series

Pakistan: Their decorum of cricket defies any logic and makes them look like a club side but their unpredictability and their ability to not be affected by innumerous controversies make them one of the most feared team in world cricket. Their secret formula might not be ideal for an onlooker but that’s how they play their game. Barring any madness a quarter final berth is rest assured and as Harsha Bhogle pointed out in the near home conditions three more brilliant days of cricket is much within their capability. Opener Mohammed Hafeez will look to set up a platform before Younis Khan and Mishbah-Ul-Haq showcase their craft in the middle overs and the exploits of Abdul Razzaq and Shahid Afridi are well archived. In Umar Gul, Shoaib Akthar and Sohail Tanvir they have a world class pace attack but much will depend on how Saeed Ajmal and the skipper deliver their quota 20 overs between them.
*Squad: Shahid Afridi ©, Mishbah-Ul-Haq, Abdul Razzaq, Abdur Rehman, Ahmed Shehzad, Asad Shafiq, Kamran Akmal (wk), Mohammed Hafeez, Saeed Ajmal, Shoaib Akhtar, Sohail Tanvir, Umar Akmal (wk), Wahab Riaz, Umar Gul, Younis Khan
Young talent to watch out for: Umar Akmal
Cup chances: 7/10
World cup track record (1975-2007): Played -56, Won -30, Lost -24, No Result - 2
Best world cup performance: Champions in 1992
Last ODI performance: Beat New Zealand 3-2 in the 6 match away series

New Zealand: Their cricket has distorted in the recent past . Having lost all their nine one day matches in the sub continent this season and then going down to Pakistan in the home series is not an ideal way to prepare for a big tournament and once again they come into it as the dark horse. Statistics does not justify Daniel Vettori’s influence as a captain and player; slightly more promising resources would have portrayed a different picture. With 3 centuries in 99 matches Ross Taylor continues to deceive the audience. Jesse Ryder and Brendon McCullum are not to be relied upon to hold the innings together and Scott Styris is ageing. Jacob Oram is carrying an injury and all that the Kiwis are left with are Martin Guptill and James Franklin. The bowling at best will do a marvelous job in containing the opposition but that is not a front line strategy in Asian conditions. Ironically John Wright’s Indian experience might be their biggest go for weapon in the campaign.
*Squad: Daniel Vettori ©, Hamish Bennett, James Franklin, Martin Guptill, Jamie How, Brendon McCullum (wk), Nathan McCullum, Kyle Mills, Jacob Oram, Jesse Ryder, Tim Southee, Scott Styris, Ross Taylor, Kane Williamson, Luke Woodcock
Young talent to watch out for: Kane Williamson
Cup chances: 4/10
World Cup track record (1975-2007): Played -62, Won -35, Lost -26, No Result - 1
Best world cup performance: Semi finalists in 1992, 1999, 2007
Last ODI performance: Lost to Pakistan 2-3 in the 6 match home series

Sri Lanka: Ever since 1996 they have come to every world cup as a competitive side and have not disappointed either with their overall standing. Playing with a spin packed attack in front of a noisy home crowd has been their biggest strength. They will be playing 5 of their league matches and in all probability the knock out matches in the familiarity zone and that makes them a dangerous team. In between Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara and Tillakaratne Dilshan they have an experience of 22774 runs and 808 matches hence making their batting one of the most formidable in the cup. Muralitharan’s experience combined with Lasith Malinga’s awkwardness and Nuwan Kulasekara’s economy gives their bowling the required bite.
*Squad: Kumar Sangakkara ©, Mahela Jayawardene, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Dilhara Fernando, Rangana Herath, Chamara Kapugedera, Nuwan Kulasekara, Lasith Malinga, Angelo Matthews, Ajantha Mendis, Muttiah Muralithan, Thisara Perera, Thilan Samaraweera, Chamara Silva, Upul Tharanga
Young talent to watch out for: Angelo Matthews
Cup chances: 8/10
World Cup track record (1975-2007): Played -57, Won -25, Lost -30, Tied – 1, No Result - 1
Best world cup performance: Champions in 1996
Last ODI performance: Beat West Indies 2-0 in the 3 match home series

Zimbabwe: A lot of hard work has gone in the recent past to revive their cricket but there is still some time before they make amends for all that they have lost in the last decade. Their squad of 1999 world cup had some amazing players who on their day turned the heat on the opposition but today the scenes have changed drastically. However the format of this edition gives them a ray of hope to make it to the quarter final if they can get past New Zealand, Canada and Kenya in the league stage. Sean Ervine’s last minute withdrawal leaves them with Charles Coventry who shared the honor of being the highest individual scorer in one day international for some time, Brendan Taylor and Tatenda Taibu. The rest of the squad have not done enough yet to earn a name at the international level.
*Squad: Elton Chigumbura©, Regis Chakabya, Charles Coventry, Graeme Cremer, Craig Ervine, Greg Lamb, Shingirai Masakadza, Tino Mawoyo, Chris Mpofu, Ray Price, Ed Rainsford, Tatenda Taibu (wk), Brendan Taylor, Prosper Utseya, Sean Williams
Young talent to watch out for: No one in specific
Cup chances: 2/10
World Cup track record (1983-2007): Played -45, Won -8, Lost -33, Tied – 1, No Result - 3
Best world cup performance: Super 6 in 1999 and 2003
Last ODI performance: Lose to Bangladesh 3-1 in the 5 match away series

Canada: One of the first few teams of the world cup cricket they were lost in the wilderness before making their second appearance in 2003. Their style of play has always been spirited and good to watch and John Davison’s 67 ball hundred against West Indies remains to be their moment under the sun. Like every world cup if an upset is due then Canada have the potential to stage it against Zimbabwe and New Zealand and a win against Kenya might see them in the quarter final.. John Davison and Ashish Bagai are the biggest names in a team filled with Asian expats.
*Squad: Ashish Bagai©, Rizwan Cheema, Harvir Baidwan, Balaji Rao, John Davison, Parth Desai, Tyson Gordon, Ruvindu Gunasekara, Jimmy Hansra, Khurram Chohan, Nitish Kumar, Henry Osinde, Hiral Patel, Zubin Surkari, Karl Whatham
Young talent to watch out for: No one in specific
Cup chances: 0/10
World Cup track record (1979-2007): Played -12, Won -1, Lost -11
Best world cup performance: Yet to qualify beyond league stage
Last ODI performance: Drew with Ireland 1-1 in the 2 match home series

Kenya: There is nothing left to be written about Kenya and they have failed to justify their ODI status, such disappointing has been their performances ever since they lost in the 2003 world cup semi final to India. Qualifying for the semi final was expected to be sting they needed in their armor to raise their game to the next level but all the predictions have been proven wrong for reasons beyond the cricket ground. In their debut world cup in 1996 they upset West Indies in Pune and the Odoyo brothers and Steve Tikolo will carry memories from then but this time around they are not expected to have any easy match. They might pull off a win against Zimbabwe and Canada but that won’t affect the points table.
*Squad: Jimmy Kamande©, Tanmay Mishra, James Ngoche, Shem Ngoche, Alex Obanda, Collins Obuya, David Obuya (wk), Nehemiah Odhiambo, Thomas Odoyo, Peter Ongondo, Elijah Otieno, Maurice Ouma (wk), Rakep Patel, Steve Tikolo, Seren Waters
Young talent to watch out for: Tanmay Mishra
Cup chances: 0/10
World cup track record (1996-2007): Played-23, Won-6, Lost-16, No Result- 1
Best world cup performance: Semi finalist in 2003 world cup
Last ODI performance: Beat Afghanistan 2-1 in the 3 match home series


India: It is one of the best Indian teams to be coming into the world cup but lack of match practice for most of the key players might be an area of concern initially. On home conditions and current form they are clearly one of the top favorites however the huge pre event expectations and hype is what Kirsten and co have to be careful about. If the external pressure can be kept at a distance and on field focus can be the sole motto then the ultimate goal can be attained. The players have to identify themselves, rise to the occasion and take responsibility on the big match days instead of relying on their fellow mates which has usually been the case with the Indian teams in previous world cups. A smashing start by Virender Sehwag and early breakthroughs from Zaheer Khan can set the tone for others to build on it however there should be a backup plan if the duo does not come good. Do not expect Yusuf Pathan to fire in each innings but when he does, sit back and enjoy.
*Squad: Mahendra Singh Dhoni©(wk), Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Yuvraj Singh, Harbhajan Singh, Yusuf Pathan, Suresh Raina, Virat Kohli, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ashish Nehra, Piyush Chawala, Zaheer Khan, Munaf Patel, S. Sreesanth
Young talent to watch out for: Virat Kohli
Cup chances: 8/10
World cup track record (1975-2007): Played-58, Won-32, Lost-25, No Result- 1
Best world cup performance: Champions in 1983
Last ODI performance: Lost to South Africa 2-3 in the 5 match away series

South Africa: In each of the last four editions the storyline has been common for South Africa; from potential title holders to chokers and the mystery remains unsolved. The circumstances of their departure from the tournament have always been bizarre ever since they were readmitted into international cricket. This year they come into the competition high on confidence but will be aware of history and might start their campaign cautiously. AB de Villers and JP Duminy can provide the required firepower but a lot will depend on the technically sound Hashim Amla and old warhorse Jacques Kallis to give solidarity to their innings. Rookie journeyman cricketer Imran Tahir and Johan Botha will be expected to play a key role in the subcontinent tracks but all eyes will be on Dale Steyn who is the sting of the Proteas attack and comes with a reputation of single handedly wrapping oppositions. The emergence of Wayne Parnell, Lonwabo Tsotsobe and Morne Morkel makes South Africa one of the strongest bowling team but like always their fate depends on what is going on between their ears.
*Squad: Graeme Smith©, Hashim Amla, Johan Botha, AB de Villers (wk), Jean-Paul Duminy, Faf du Plessis, Imran Tahir, Colin Ingram, Jacques Kallis, Morne Morkel, Wayne Parnell, Robin Peterson, Dale Steyn, Lonwabo Tsotsobe, Morne Van Wyk (wk)
Young talent to watch out for: Lonwabo Tsotsobe
Cup chances: 7/10
World cup track record (1992-2007): Played-40, Won-25, Lost-13, Tie- 2
Best world cup performance: Semi finalist in 1992, 1999
Last ODI performance: Beat India 3-2 in the 5 match home series

England: The press has written a lot of good about them and Andy Flower’s boys have delivered some outstanding performance over the last season or two. For the first time in many years they come into the world cup as one of the contenders but a lot remains to be seen on how they cope up with the conditions in the sub continent which have been their nemesis for a long time now. If they can focus on their task instead of feeling suffocated about issues beyond their control then a semi final berth will be within reach but only time can answer whether it can happen because history suggests otherwise. Graeme Smith’s rise in the rankings and James Anderson’s mastery over the new ball and Collingwood’s overall knowledge offers variety into the attack which had never been their ingredient in the past editions. However like every other team they will depend on their batsmen to fire on placid tracks. Jonathan Trott and Ian Bell will be expected to build an innings around Kevin Pietersen who remains to be the big draw.
*Squad: Andrew Strauss©, James Anderson, Ian Bell, Tim Bresnan, Stuart Broad, Paul Collingwood, Ravi Bopara, Kevin Pietersen, Matt Prior(wk), Ajmal Shahzad, Graeme Swann, James Tredwell, Jonathan Trott, Luke Wright, Michael Yardy
Young talent to watch out for: Jonathan Trott
Cup chances: 7/10
World cup track record (1992-2007): Played-59, Won-36, Lost-22, No Result- 1
Best world cup performance: Semi finalist in 1992, 1999
Last ODI performance: Lost to Australia 1-6 in the 7 match away series

West Indies: Cricket teams world over use West Indies as the bench mark to measure their performance graph over years. A team that was feared by every opponent today stands at its lowest point and the format might allow them a berth in the quarter final but their competitive level does not promise anything beyond that. On paper their blend of youth and experience make them look good but on field a lot is left to be desired. It is another thing if Kieron Pollard with his IPL confidence decides to come to the party and with meaningful contribution from others a different result can be on the cards. Adrian Barath is an excellent talent but Chris Gayle and Dwayne Bravo will be their go to men most of the times and Sulieman Ben’s left arm spin will be entertaining to watch.
*Squad: Darren Sammy ©, Adrian Barath, Carlton Baugh (wk), Sulieman Ben, Dwayne Bravo, Darren Bravo, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Chris Gayle, Nikita Miller, Kieron Pollard, Ravi Rampaul, Kemar Roach, Andre Russell, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Devon Smith
Young talent to watch out for: Kieron Pollard
Cup chances: 5/10
World cup track record (1975-2007): Played-57, Won-35, Lost-21, No Result- 1
Best world cup performance: Champions in 1975, 1979
Last ODI performance: Lost to Sri Lanka 0-2 in the 3 match away series

Bangladesh: Their series white wash win over New Zealand at home have earned them respect worldwide and fact that they will be playing all their league games in their backyard makes them a strong contender for the quarter final and if they flow with the rhythm then a semi final spot might not be elusive. The fanatic home crowd’s nothing to lose attitude will add extra pressure on the opponent and expect a few of them to crumble to trigger widespread celebration across the country. In their skipper Shakib Al Hassan and Abdur Razzaq they have two spinners who can choke any line up with their miserly line and length. Absence of an injured Mashrafe Mortaza and the unfulfilled promise of Mohammad Ashraful is their biggest weaklink but youngsters like Tamim Iqbal bring an element of freshness and vibrancy into the squad.
*Squad: Shakib Al Hassan ©, Tamim Iqbal, Abdur Razzak, Imrul Kayes, Junaid Siddique, Mahmudullah, Mohammad Ashraful, Mushfiqur Rahim (wk), Naeem Islam, Nazmul Hossain, Raqibul Hassan, Rubel Hossain, Shaiful Islam, Shahriar Nafees, Suhrawadi Shuvo
Young talent to watch out for: Tamim Iqbal
Cup chances: 4/10
World cup track record (1999-2007): Played-20, Won-5, Lost-14, No Result- 1
Best world cup performance: Qualified for the super 8s in 2007
Last ODI performance: Beat Zimbabwe 3-1 in the 5 match home series

Ireland: Ireland will find the Asian conditions alien but for them it has always been about enjoying the experience. In the world beyond test status they have been making some rapid progress and to be playing in 2011 world cup is a reward for all their hard work. They have tasted a big world cup and T20 world championship victory in the past and the smell of it would still be fresh and that will keep them going in this edition. With veteran Ed Joyce, Trent Johnston and William Porterfield in their ranks there is no dearth of international exposure however for them to repeat their 2007 world cup performance they have to bank on the others to come good.
*Squad: William Porterfield ©, Andre Botha, Alex Cusack, George Dockrell, Trent Johnston, Nigel Jones, Ed Joyce, John Mooney, Kevin O’Brien, Niall O’ Brien (wk), Boyd Rankin, Paul Stirling, Albert var der Merwe, Andrew White, Gary Wilson (wk)
Young talent to watch out for: No one in specific
Cup chances: 0/10
World cup track record (2007-2007): Played-9, Won-2, Lost-6, No Result- 1
Best world cup performance: Yet to qualify beyond league stage
Last ODI performance: Drew with Canada 1-1 in the 2 match away series

Netherlands: In 1996 Nolan Clarke entered the record books for being the oldest world cupper at the age of 47 and that remains to be the only reason for Netherland to cheer about. Their performance at the associate level has earned them a place in the world cup but at the big stage they have still a long stride to cover. With ICC deciding to reduce the number of teams to 10 in the 2015 world cup this will be their last outing for a long time to come. Ryan ten Doeschate the current ICC associate player of the year and the first Netherlands player to bag an IPL contract will be the key entertainer along with Tom Cooper.
*Squad: Peter Borren ©, Adeel Raja, Wesley Barresi (wk), Mudasar Bukhari, Atse Buurman, Tom de Grooth, Alexei Kervezee, Bradley Kurger, Bernard Loots, Pieter Seelaar, Eric Szwarczynski, Ryan ten Doeschate, Berend Westdijk, Bas Zuiderent
Young talent to watch out for: No one in specific
Cup chances: 0/10
World cup track record (1996-2007): Played-14, Won-2, Lost-12,
Best world cup performance: Yet to qualify beyond league stage
Last ODI performance: Lost to Ireland 0-2 in the 2 match away series

*Few of the squads might have a few changes due to injury concerns

Sidhanta Patnaik

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Refreshing Cricket World Cup Memories

In the 19 years between January 1992 to 2011, five cricket world cups have been hosted in five different continents with each tournament being special in its own way. Cricket lovers across the world have got enough memories from these editions to drool about for lifelong. With just over a week to go before the 10th ICC Cricket World Cup gets underway in Bangladesh, India and Srilanka it is time to look back at those unforgettable occurrences of the past.

1992 (5th Edition) –Benson & Hedges Cup (Hosts: Australia & New Zealand)

* Introduction of colored dress, white ball and floodlight matches in world cup
* Martin Crowe innovates by opening his team’s bowling attack with spinner Dipak Patel
* Ajay Jadeja takes a spectacular diving one hand catch at long off to dismiss Alan Border and announce his arrival. India’s loses the match by 1 run
* Sachin Tendulkar scores an attacking half century against Pakistan
* Javed Miandad does a monkey jump as a reaction to Kiran More’s chirping behind the stumps
* Jonty Rhodes’ produces a marvel piece of diving one hand run out to send Inzamam Ul-Haq packing
* Debutant South Africa agonizingly bow out in the semi-finals against England courtesy Duckworth-Lewis – From 22 runs needed off 13 balls to 7 balls to finally 21 runs being needed off 1 ball.
* Wasim Akram dismisses Alan Lamb and Chris Lewis off consecutive deliveries in the finals
* An emotional Imran Khan lifts the trophy and commits his share of prize money to the cause of his cancer hospital in memory of his mother.

1996 (6th Edition) –Wills World Cup (Hosts: India, Pakistan, Srilanka)

* A combined Pakistan-India XI play an exhibition match against Srilanka XI to compensate for the loss after Australia and West Indies forfeited their matches in Srilanka against the home team due to security reasons
* A controversial opening ceremony at the Eden Gardens where the pitch was dug up
* Gary Kirsten’s 188* against UAE becomes the highest individual score in world cup cricket
* Javed Miandad becomes the first cricketer to play in 6 world cups
* Sachin Tendulkar’s first world cup century comes against Kenya at Barabati Stadium, Cuttack
* Kenya’s upset win against West Indies after bundling them out for 93
* Sanath Jayasuriya and Romesh Kaluwitharana redefine the meaning of an opener’s role in one day internationals
* The Srilanka openers put a halt to Manoj Prabhakar’s career in a league match in Delhi where Sachin Tendulkar’s run a ball 137 goes in vain
* Srilanka post 398/5 against Kenya, the then highest team score in One day internationals
* Ajay Jadeja and Anil Kumble’s famous Bangalore assault on Waqar Younis in the quarter final followed by the infamous spat between Aamir Sohail and Venkatesh Prasad
* South Africa’s clean slate spoiled by West Indies in the quarter final hence earning them the tag of ‘chokers’
* The ugly side of Eden Gardens shows up as India stumble to 120/8 chasing 252 against Srilanka in the semi final. Match is called off due to crowd violence and Vinod Kambli is seen sulking
* Sachin Tendulkar (523 runs) and Anil Kumble (15 wickets) finish as the edition’s highest run scorer and highest wicket taker respectively
* The famous Mohali semi final where West Indies snatch defeat from the jaws of victory
* The then Pakistan president Benazir Bhutto refuses to shake hands with world cup winning captain Arjuna Ranatunga on the presentation podium

1999 (7th Edition) – ICC Cricket World Cup (Hosts: The United Kingdom)

* Return of world cup cricket to England after 16 years
* The ship like media box at Lords becomes the latest addition to cricket infrastructures
* An opening ceremony that could not get underway because of the English weather
* Introduction of the super 6s for the first time
* India’s shocking defeat to Zimbabwe courtesy Henry Olonaga’s 3/22 in a league match comes to haunt them in the super 6 stage
* Sachin Tendulkar scores a century against Kenya after attending his father’s funeral in Mumbai
* Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid murder the Srilankan attack at Taunton
* Saqlain Mushtaq becomes the 2nd bowler to take a hattrick in world cup after Chetan Sharma (1987)
* Bangladesh upset Pakistan’s plan and set up a riot back in Pakistan
* Herschelle Gibbs drops Steve Waugh in the super 6 and with that the world cup though Steve Waugh in his book has clarified that he never said it
* New Zealand falter yet again in semi final
* Alan Donald commits suicide in semi final and South Africa retain the choker tag
* Lance Klusener wonders one and all with his stroke play
* Rahul Dravid becomes the first wicket keeper to score a century in world cup cricket and ends the tournament as the highest run scorer
* Geoff Allot becomes the highest wicket taker in the world cup and retires months after citing back problem
* Australia win 7 matches in a trot to come back from hopeless situation to lift the world cup

2003 (8th Edition) – ICC Cricket World Cup (Hosts: South Africa, Zimbabwe, Kenya)

* Shane Warne banned for one year just before world cup for failing the drug test however Andrew Symonds sets the tempo for Australia in their first match
* England forfeit their match against Zimbabwe in Harare due to the Robert Mugabe controversy
* Andy Flower and Henry Olonga wear black bands as a protest against Robert Mugabe regime
* Indian players disallowed to have sponsors name on their jerseys, finally play with Amby Valley branding
* India get bowled out against Netherlands within the stipulated 50 overs
* Australia crucify Sourav Ganguly’s boys in the league stage and effigies are burnt across India. Sachin Tendulkar makes a open request to the Indian public to have patience
* James Andreson floors Pakistan in the league stage
* England scare Australia before Michael Bevan and Andy Bichel put things in perspective
* Asish Nehra decides to own England
* Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar make a mockery of Pakistan’s famed pace attack
* Canada’s John Davison sets new world cup record by scoring the fastest hundred off 67 balls against West Indies
* Chaminda Vaas and Brett Lee become the third and fourth bowlers to take world cup hattricks respectively
* Wasim Akram quits international cricket as the bowler with highest number of world cup wickets - 55
* South Africa commits sin yet again. The team miscalculates Duckworth Lewis formula and Mark Boucher decides to defend a ball instead of taking a single before rain comes in. Eventually the match is tied and South Africa fail to make it to the super 6 for a margin of one run
* Kenya surprise the cricketing fraternity with a semi final berth. Unfortunately their cricket has declined drastically ever since
* Sachin Tendulkar becomes the first batsman to score more than 600 runs in one edition of world cup (673) and bags the man of the series
* Aussie batsmen led by Ricky Ponting murder the Indian bowling attack to be the second team after West Indies to win consecutive world cups

2007 (9th Edition) – ICC Cricket World Cup (Hosts: West Indies)

* For the first time 16 teams participate in the tournament leading to 51 matches.
* The format flops and most of the matches are played in front of empty stands
* India lose to Bangladesh and Pakistan go down to Ireland. Both the big teams fail to make it to the super 6 hence robbing off major interest in the tournament
* India post their first score beyond 400, coming against Bermuda. A match in which Dwayne Leverock takes a blinder to dismiss Robin Uthappa
* Dhilara Fernando’s timber crasher to Sachin Tendulkar
* Herschelle Gibbs becomes the first batsman to hit 6 sixes in an over in international cricket
* Matthew Hayden’s 66 ball ton against South Africa becomes the fastest world cup century
* Lasith Malinga’s 4 wickets in 4 balls against South Africa
* South Africa fail to make to the semi finals despite being strong contenders – Chokers yet again and New Zealand flounder in semi final yet again
* Glenn McGrath with 56 wickets becomes the highest world cup wicket taker
* Inzamam Ul- Haq, Brian Lara, Glenn McGrath retire from international cricket
* Bob Woolmer dies under mysterious circumstances making it the worst remembered world cup
* Adam Gilchrist’s sponge ball hundred powers Australia to their 3rd consecutive world cup title
* Steve Bucknor, Aleem Dar, Rudi Koertzen, Billy Bowden, Jeff Crowe suspended for inaugural World T20 championship for their decision making skills in a rain interrupted controversial world cup final match

Sidhanta Patnaik
6th February 2011 (Sunday), 12.49am
Marthahalli, Bangalore

P.S – The first four world cups have not been included in this piece because the writer was born in 1984 and witnessed his first world cup match only in 1992.

Friday, February 4, 2011

A Lady I Met

When you ask someone who would have just come out of a life changing experience about the biggest take away from the phase and invariably the reply would be about the kind of inspiring people and their stories (s) he came across hence giving a new reason to live life to the person in question. I could never co-relate the connectivity till I became one of them. The hard reality is that majority of us do not heed to the worries of others when the sailing is smooth, it is only when the weather gets rough that one truly acknowledges the meaning of pain in someone else’s life. Your mind opens up to the vastness that lies beyond the usual depictions and you start admiring things and respecting elements that were never a part of your agenda till recently.

There are certain people who elate your feeling much before you come in acquaintance with them. After having heard a lot of good things and her upbeat approach to life when I finally met Ms. Manju Bagha Singh, wife of Tata Power’s HR Head on 22nd December 2010; my last day as an in-patient at Tata Memorial Hospital I understood the reason behind the hype that surrounded her. She came across as a simple lady who was interested in finding life’s true meaning instead of investing time behind fancy obsessions, a common hobby of wives of corporate honchos. One look at her sparkling eyes communicated that she had a lot of life experiences and was open to share those expressions with anyone and everyone she came across or else why would have she come all the way from Colaba to Parel to visit me. Though her body had undergone a lot in the last two decades yet her biggest secret has been the power to be in control of her state of mind and drive her thoughts at every given moment and that makes her a winner for life.

Consciousness of one’s own self is the best remedy for the human mind and the finest tool to spread the spirit of joy and love is the message that came across from her stories. One could only admire her spirit and motivation because had it been a slightly fragile mind then the cookie would have crumbled much before the Sun set. No wonder God tests the tougher souls so that more and more examples sprout around us to live and let live. Ever since she regained her normalcy she has been looking for avenues to add value to life and has been deriving pleasure from her ability to enable open minds to release their energy into the Universe for aspirations to come true. Any other objective looks miniscule in front of such a genuine mission. Meeting such people not only strengthens your conviction to be in love with your present but also assures you of a future worth the wait.

It was quite apparent midway into our conversation that we had struck a mental chord and were in the same wavelength. Her positive and vibrant vibes rubbed off to me and presented me with a set of questions whose answer can only get better every time I make an attempt to discover them. Her act of gifting me two priceless books (The Secret and Power) signifies the definition of our relationship and it was accepted with an assurance that those stores of knowledge have reached the right person at the right time. Our maiden meeting has been the sole point of interaction and the second appointment is yet to be scheduled but with certain people in life the duration between visits is inconsequential because you are rest assured that whenever and wherever you come across next the threads will be picked up from where they were left the last time, such is the level of understanding between the minds.

Sidhanta Patnaik

4th February 2011 (Friday), 6.35pm

Marthahalli, Bangalore

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Thank you Wizcraft

An event manager’s life is an amalgamation of timelines and follow ups especially on the day of the show prior to the venue handover time. Typical visuals from the venue would scare any heart patient or pregnant lady. The phone never ceases to ring and the client demands undivided attention even if that invites delays. In another corner various vendors continue with their customary drills as the venue operations in charge frantically calls a few who perennially get stuck in traffic only to arrive with the deliverables just at the nick of time. The show running team usually is busy readjusting the final show flow to accommodate client’s additional request. The artist manager continues to wonder the reason behind the hostesses’ unpunctuality and the snobbish attitude of that of a self acclaimed show stopper. In the meantime the MC is on stage requesting the audience to settle down for the show to start and that becomes the reason to waste crew food that was budgeted under the miscellaneous head of the event cost sheet.

For someone who has been there and done that for nearly hundred times it was a feeling of familiarity and home coming amidst all the chaos when I stepped into Karnataka Trade Promotion Organization (KTPO) on 3rd February 2011 where the Wizzes were executing GE’s Health Care annual awards ceremony. As usual Pradeep was driving the young brigade for that extra percentage of perfection and Nadia was going around getting things done in an unassuming manner.From a distance it all looked proverbial as it was months back when I had done my last event as a Wiz but to convince myself of it would have been one of the biggest denials of life and more so when Pradeep (Jr) ensured that I was the first one among all crew members to be given food.

The last four months have not only toughened my character courtesy the fight I put up but also put a lot of things in perspective for me. Thanks to my hopes and aspiration the test of life was not about survival but about celebrating the journey in order to have stories to tell in the future. However there were moments when loneliness took over and at times the light at the end of the tunnel was nothing more than a hallucination. It all boiled down to the number of hours I dedicated everyday to paint images of a future of my choice. Among many other things I constantly simulated were scenes of being in the middle of live projects (cricket matches and other shows) piled with major responsibilities and handling them successfully. Frequent communications with the Universe had become my best pastime to remain in the best frame of mind.

I was always convinced during that phase that my imagination would become real much faster than the normal pace because my approach was upbeat all through out. Instead I had decided much in advance to cherish every moment of that day when it arrived and was patiently waiting to witness the form and shape of it. My impulsive message to Girish seeking permission to be a part of Wizcraft on an ad-hoc basis, his affirmative reply and then deciding to undergo my next stage of treatment in Bangalore were all an indication of how the moment would arrive and that is why my presence at the GE event makes it one of life’s special moment.

Ever since Nadia had put my name in the event’s manpower list I had started to feel the occasion and my Wiz T-Shirt was pulled out of the wardrobe with a purpose written all over it. At the venue when Sneha handed over my crew badge to me I accepted it with honor, looked at it with a grin on my face and wore it with pride. I felt complete and my mind joined the dots of an imaginary circle. Fascination for crew badges is one thing but to get an access to it after going through an ordeal is another thing. That very moment I felt how true the old adage of ‘Once a Wiz, always a Wiz’ is. It was incidental that I carried out my responsibility of trophy distribution with aplomb and the event was well executed. The day was well summed up when after the event Priyanka voiced out my unspoken wish of archiving the day courtesy a crew photograph against the stage backdrop, again the Universe doing its magic.

Thank you Wizcraft.

(Wiz) Sidhanta Patnaik

3rd February 2011, 11.04pm

Marthahalli, Bangalore

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Today's International Schools

Today primary education is exorbitant and fashionable just like any other trend in the society. It has become a matter of status symbol for parents to put their kids in the most talked about school in the town for which they do not mind queuing in line for reserving a seat much before the baby is conceived in the mother’s womb. The mirage of securing the future has created this craze and in the process today schools with ‘international’ tag have mushroomed anywhere and everywhere just like malls, business parks and residential apartments have. It is a classic example of the theory of demand and supply and anyone who has the capital is trying to make hay while the sun is shining. It is for nothing that India’s education industry is thriving irrespective of what phase the country’s business cycle is in.

Today every city’s traffic congestion is half contributed by the school buses with the word ‘international’ and their phone number beaming on it bold and clear. It is a good marketing tactic to lure someone who has a family to run and is stranded for the major part of the day on the road. The vision is restricted to what it sees and a time constrained environment leads to instant decisions as a call is made while on the transit to book an appointment with the school’s admission officer on the coming weekend. So out of nowhere the kid in the family whose path was undecided till yesterday finds himself in the middle of a centrally air conditioned building to be exposed to some world class education – After all the fantasy advertisements on the hoarding and on television had promised to deliver much beyond classroom preaching. My grandfather who was an eminent educationist always stressed upon the point that educational institutions and hospitals should let the quality of service be their mode of promotion instead of spending on paid form of media. These days many private schools have employed marketing managers whose job profile includes scouting for influential parents who can afford a seat. Come to think of it and education has become like any other commodity in the market.

Coming back to the point as soon as the kid’s journey begins the parents realize that all that glitters is not gold. However the huge investment eliminates the option of backing out and like a typical Indian who trusts international brands much more than their mom’s opinion they find themselves trapped in no man’s land with no alternative but to continue with the initial choice. Moreover any change would attract unwanted attention and Mrs. Sharma from the neighbourhood would ensure that the topic becomes the point of gossip in the next kitty party at the locality’s community hall. The prestige cannot be compromised for; so what if the kid is in the firing line.

As it turns out all is not what it was showcased to be. The teachers responsible for molding the kid are what they were years back teaching the same subjects in pretty much an identical manner. If at all the meaning of values and their importance might have diminished by a margin over the years. The kid’s parents are now considered as business partners who are equally accountable for the school’s economic growth or else how could the visionary who woke up one morning with the mega idea of world class schooling encourage the thought of financially penalizing the parents if their kids broke a rule or two. Were we not of the notion that a child’s innocent mischievous mind is the breeding ground for creativity and to allow him/her to express would only reap societal benefit in the long run. Now by indirectly putting a gag on his/her naughtiness we are only hampering the kid’s lateral thinking and the society’s potential richness.

The school’s glossy brochure also promises of state of art sporting facilities that guarantees of the kid’s physical fitness and putting him/her in the process that would fuel the dreams of representing the nation in the selected sport but soon reality sets in. Most of the schools which have propped up overnight do not have playgrounds of their own; forget about coaching set up. They prefer to lease out their sporting wing to private entities who charge an extra fee for allowing access. No wonder today’s parents are much happier to provide their kids with the latest video game or allow them to watch reality shows against discussing how their straight drives, smashes or slam dunks could be mastered with constant practice.
Gone are the days when being punished by the teachers was considered to be a matter of achievement. Today in schools it is a strict no-no to hurt the kids. If any evidence is found then the parents are willingly dragging the school authorities into the courtroom. What does a kid learn from this? Is the society streaming up the pipeline with softy kids who are cushioning themselves with aloofness every time they are exposed to the real world? The picnic destinations have conveniently shifted from trips to unexplored locations to swanky resorts. Now is that a good bargain? Artificial creations have taken precedence over nature’s beauty. The kids’ appreciation towards the gift of nature is much low at a time when we are thinking of ways to counter global warming and protect the fast depleting forest base. No more do kids go to zoos instead they are taken to malls and community halls for occasions at a time when millions of rupees are being invested to protect the 1411 tigers left in India. The concept of celebration has also changed as today distributing chocolates on birthdays to classmates is considered as outdated and kids are content as long as their parents take them to nearest pizza outlet for a bite. This is not the ideal way to impart the lessons of sharing and caring. Days of national significance are no more important in the scheme of things for these new schools. Recently my cousin who studies in class I was happy about republic day because he would get a few extra hours of sleep. When enquired about the importance of the day he was clueless. How is he supposed to know what 26th January stands for when his school does not celebrate it?

It is pointless to debate how so many schools with most of the required boxes un-ticked get permission to start their venture because everyone is aware of the reality but it is worthwhile to pose a few questions which have futuristic impact on how we live our life from here on. Are the schools playing a major role in changing the meaning of life? Are they significantly altering the societal equation? Are they changing the meaning of everything around us? The answers will be clear only when the first batch of these ‘international’ students graduate and start taking responsibilities but if what one has to believe what one sees then it is time to be prepared for a transitional shift worth a period.

Sidhanta Patnaik
2nd February 2011 (Wednesday), 8.51pm
Marthahalli, Bangalore