Take a leaf out of…

With England, New Zealand, WI and South Africa doing well on foreign soil and the news of retirements , both announced ones and expected to be announced ones, Test cricket has once again found a lot of mention in the sports columns these days. Still , the advent of fast cricket has spell doom for this long format. The recent cosmetic recommendations by the top body haven’t done anything great to revive it. I was able to find quite a few rules present in other more internationally acclaimed sports which if applied here, with a few adjustments, might help sustain interest in test cricket.

Replacements

A football team can replace upto 3 players in the playing 11 in the second half. This helps the team to change its composition in view of the changing dynamics of the match. It can be adopted in test cricket too, with each team having opportunity to replace , say 2 players in second innings i.e. before the 3rd innings of the match. But a batsman can be replaced only by a bowler and vice-versa. A player who struggled in the first set of innings cannot be replaced by another player with a similar ‘job profile’ i.e. bat/bowl in the last 2 innings.All rounders and wicket-keepers cannot be replaced. We can add a few twists also: If a team that conceded lead in the first innings opts for a replacement, then the other team which took the lead can then ask any one of the remaining 10 players of the other team also to be replaced , albeit with a few restrictions. Also teams often deploy substitutes during fielding to replace slow moving fielders. Such temporary replacements only for fielding purposes should not be allowed. Substitutions , just like in football, can only be permanent for that game.At the same time care needs to be taken not to make the replacement rules too complicated or provide teams with loop holes to exploit the situation.

Umpire decision review

Only GOD and ICC can tell why is DRS not used much. If the big daddy BCCI is opposed to it , let them be; Remember they were opposing T20 cricket also once upon a time… Here we can take a cue from tennis. After scores are leveled at 6-6 games all in the final set , the number of reviews get reset to 3 per player. Similarly here for a team that manages to bat beyond 90 overs, the number of reviews can be reset to 3. On the other hand the team which manages to bowl out the opponent in less than a fixed number of overs , say 60 in 1 innings, can be granted an additional review in any one of the remaining innings.

(No) offence 

A player found guilty of any offence can be given a ‘yellow card’ or ‘red card’ based on the seriousness of the offence. A batsman or a bowler with a ‘yellow card’ cannot play in  that second innings in which his team bats or bowls respectively. A second yellow card  means game over for him. A red-carded player cannot play in any of the next innings. The concerned team can then field only 10 players for the remaining innings. For a team as a whole, we can also have rules similar to that in Formula 1 wherein an offender is given a 20-second penalty. Here the team can be deducted 20 runs in the next innings it bats or the opposition team is granted 20 additional runs in the innings in which offending team bowls. The penalty for an offence in the second innings can be carried forward to the next test match. In this way all the team members are penalised and not just the team’s captain.

The aim is to make the rules of test cricket somewhat different from other fast modes of cricket so that there is some renewed interest in watching the otherwise long and boring form of cricket.

Advertisements
Posted in Gentleman's game, Other sports | Leave a comment

The great online struggle

With the online processes making inroads in our country, we do have come a long way, doing away with scores of offline painstaking processes. Ticket booking, recharge of devices, status tracking, shopping couldn’t have been simpler  Still, just like in our Hindi movies, a lot is left to be desired with the online stuff. In some areas, it has proved to be a double edged sword, thanks to some of our Stone-Age irrational laws, negligible development of associated fields & thoughtless migration of processes from offline to online mode.

Solve other problems first

We need to understand that after going online, our problems will not get solved overnight. Common sense needs to prevail and precede before we make things online.

The admission circus
The online admission process was supposed to make things simpler, wasn’t it ? Not really. 2 problems still exist. First, we need to understand that students don’t just reside in Tier I/II cities but scores of them reside in villages, wherein continuous electricity supply still remains a dream. Nobody can really expect all of them to fill up online marathon forms. No clear-cut guidelines and all form fields getting reset all of a sudden if power/internet breaks down in between, only add to the woes. Centres to help students in filling up the form are too far and too few. The rudeness, reluctance, lack of sufficient knowledge of staff over there is a different story altogether. Smartphones also cannot be used as they are still costlier, short battery life is a well-known problem, government is too reluctant to develop admission related apps and anyway we Indians still prefer laptop/desktop over phone for doing important transactions. As a result, people remain a little wary when it comes to online admission process. Entrance exams like CAT are doing reasonably well after going online, but the uncertainty over the fate of half filled answer paper before electricity/ internet calls it a day is a much bigger concern there.
Secondly, the admission process is really not online. Only 2 modules: Filling up the form and status checking are online. A process in which students still have to stand in serpentine queues for multiple checks of the same set of documents , cannot really be called online. There is huge scope for optimization here, without compromising on quality of background checks. This applies not just to admission , but also to application of passport,bank account and host of other government id proofs.

Independent but not mutually exclusive.
For a married woman, changing the surname on all id proofs is a Herculean task. Agencies issuing passport, driving license, PAN card, ration card, voter id card, bank accounts, mutual fund/insurance schemes work independently of each other. To add to it, at any agency, 4-5 documents are required. As of now, no one document has authority to establish a person’s identity beyond doubt. If say 4 agencies accept the proofs issued by other 3, then mistake by any one of them will percolate to others and the very purpose of detailed, painful offline background check is anyway lost !! Some part of some of these processes may be online , but there is no use when a person still has to anyway run from pillar to post for each…

The side-effects

Daily I receive a handful of emails from unknown marketing firms marketing all products from homes to cockroach killers. I myself don’t know how many people in this world know my email id, mobile number, postal address & other details shared by me knowingly or unknowingly on plethora of online sites. Transparency is a big concern not just to social networking sites but to other websites as well. Each person needs to have copyright on his online profile. Yes, each site has some sort of disclaimer policies in place (We anyway have no choice but to “Accept” them before proceeding ahead), but we really don’t know whether our profile is being misused or not…

Perennial problems like electricity supply will not be solved in the near future. Irrational application processes and problems due to lack of proper migration plan are created by us. Security and transparency concerns while online need to be addressed to satisfactorily. All these niggling issues need to be tackled first before we really become digital, in the true sense of the term. Else, the perception towards online usage will not undergo a changeover as much as desired.

Posted in General learnings | Leave a comment

Good, but not good enough

India’s official entry for Oscars was announced and the honours went to the recently released movie Barfi. The movie has received rave reviews from all over and could well deserve to be selected for Oscars. Yet, the question remains whether it is good enough to beat hundreds of other entries & get us that coveted Oscar, which has always eluded us.

India has struggled to make a mark at the big Os: Oscars & Olympics. We have finally managed to make some mark of a sort at the latter. The former one remains a challenge. Many Indian movies have, in recent times grossed more than 100 crores, but when it comes to comparison with foreign films, they have struggled. This is quite similar to India witnessing huge success in its domestic tournament IPL, creating quite a few ‘stars’ but unable to produce them in sufficient numbers at the international scene, especially in the bowling department…Coming back to the official entry for Oscars, why would it win the award for the best foreign language film in the entire world ? What is the film’s USP ? Great Cinematography ? No… Good portrayal of handicap of dumbness, deafness & autism ? No, there have been better films made highlighting these areas. Good, sweet movie with a feel good factor ? Not enough to be recognised as the best in the business….With only 3 of our films making it to top 5 of the Oscars till date, in all probability this one too will bite the dust. It may end up yet again to be nothing more than andhon mein kaana raja in the shortlist of Indian films considered for the Oscars. Yet again , the talks that lack of Oscar donot degrade the quality of any film will emerge,  but they will only prove nothing more than a consolation for us.

Question is do we really care if we receive Oscars or not, when films like Rowdy Rathore, ETT, bodyguard are able to make tons of money ? Similar question to do we really care to be world T20 champions when IPL is bringing in all the required moolah ? Probably no. Do the producers-directors here have the capacity to make extra-ordinary films ? Probably yes.. I have already highlighted problems with Indian films in my earlier post, Indian films and their problems. I strongly feel India should refrain from sending any entry to the Oscars unless it is a path breaking one. Even considering films like GoW, Ferrari ki sawari, heroine for its official entry for the world’s best film tells us that India is still far away from making world-class films. There is no need of completing any formality by compulsorily sending some film to the Oscars. You cannot really sell a scooter when there are high class bikes to choose from. Without taking any credit away from the beautiful film Barfi , I feel our films just don’t have the firepower & the X-factor to make it to the top, atleast as of now. Our films can change it all, provided our film makers show enough killing instinct & break traditional barriers. Simply having a foreign production house on board wont dramatically change anything. The age-old copy-cat tendency needs to be replaced by strong originality & creativity ( There are a lot of articles coming up, mentioning countless scenes of barfi being copied from here & there). All this dramatic change will take time. Till then, wishing all the best to our official entry for Oscars and also parallely all the best wishes to the Indian team especially with its batsman friendly bowling attack. Hope both make inroads into the respective competition they are part of.

Posted in General learnings | Leave a comment

Cricket, government & ‘other’ sports

The grand Olympics 2012 have come to an end & Indian contingent returns home with a Sixer. On a relative scale, there has been a definite paradigm shift, not only in our performance at Olympics but also in the mindset & perceptions of all of us for these ‘ other’ sports. Let us see how & why this change actually happened.

Overdose: Blessing in disguise

Many people attribute the low popularity of other games to the craziness towards cricket. Ironically, the same game through some self destruction has helped people take more notice of other games. BCCI guys has definitely not learnt the Economics Law of Marginal Utility: Too much of anything causes more harm than good. For how long will India keep on playing nonsensical bi-series matches with our cash strapped neighbors ? What is the purpose of having a packed schedule of matches hoping that stands will continue to remain packed with spectators? Continuous matches one after the other have caused even die-hard cricket fans to move away from the game & take notice of other sports. More people watched our boxers, wrestlers battle it out rather than getting glued to the ongoing India-SL series. 10 years back this would not have been the case. On the penultimate day of the Olympics, social media sites got flooded with tweets & posts the moment one of our wrestlers won the bronze. This is definitely a welcome change in our perceptions.

Stopped blaming cricket & government

I have read about many players complaining that cricket has killed their sport & even the government is doing preciously little towards the development of their sport. Infact the government is fond of creating hurdle races by persisting with dark age rules related to visa for foreign trainers, sports infrastructure development, etc Well, the situation may not change much in the near future but the players & ex-players realised that they have to live with the system instead of hoping for it to change. Accordingly a few former players came together to form a non-profit organisations to help Indian sportsmen. They did the smart thing: Let the sports persons do what they are best at–Play their game & they took care of everything else: Tackling the never ending obstacle races created by Government formalities, on behalf of the sportsmen. Although still in their preliminary stages, positive results have started to show as a result of their efforts.

Colour matters

For a country perennially starved of medals, a bronze medal winner apologizing to the country for not winning a gold or silver is a real shot in the arm for us. The statements in the media did include ones like ” One step away from final”, ” One step away from gold” & not just ” Assured of silver” or ” Assured of a medal” Finally India may have started to believe that we can be the best and actually aim at gold and not just a medal in all the games we participate.

What Next ???

We Indians seem to get complacent more often than not. This performance is just the first positive step towards building a sports culture. We are still way off the radar when it comes to comparing our absolute performance with that of other countries, some much smaller than us. Government has to play a much bigger role apart from just awarding the winners & offering positions to them. They have to invest in the process of development of a solid sports culture right from school level. We ourselves need to encourage such sportsmen in whatever small way we can to hope that India gets recognized in sport events apart from just the gentleman’s game.

Posted in General learnings, Other sports | Leave a comment

All grasshoppers, no ants

Last week witnessed a very sad incident when a fire devastated 4 floors of the Mantralaya, with around half a dozen people and countless documents succumbing to it. A section of the office of the Home Ministry also went up in flames, just a couple of days after this incident.A newspaper reports revealed that another iconic building of the BMC is already sitting on a fire bomb.  There could be many other establishments , which GOD forbid, may meet with the same fate sooner or later. HereI don’t wish to focus on sabotage theories surrounding us at the moment, but more on our preparedness for such disasters or infact lack of it.

Every organisation has in place policies , guidelines for action in case of any unforeseen incident strikes. However, in most of them, it is merely on paper and at maximum is just included in induction programs. “Mock” drills are nothing more than a mockery. They are generally conducted on Friday evenings or Saturday mornings as the output & motivation levels  at these times are anyway less. In addition people once having once reached downstairs take their own sweet time to finish off their roadside tea, snacks, smoking a cigarette and go back to their desks to resume work. So, productivity loss resulting from such a drill exercise is minimized. The facts that everyone is well informed about the drill in advance and everyone casually makes it to the ground after the siren is sounded add to the futility of such exercises. The ideal drill is the one in which nobody is informed about the drill in advance and actually is conducted during peak business hours. Employees who take it casually by finishing off the work at hand, cause delay in leaving the desks,use the lifts, taking their own sweet time to come down amidst chit-chat should be taken to task. Care must also be taken to ensure that drills are not treated as shepherd boy’s false alarms.
One such unforgettable , invaluable benefit of regular mock drills lie in the heroics of late Rick Rescorla, security director at Morgan Stanley. See how he saved 2500+ lives in 9/11 tragedyThere is absolutely no harm in having a Rick Rescorla in every organisation so that the loss arising out of any unfortunate events can be minimised.

However, the main point is why do we tend to neglect the need to prepare ourselves against disasters ? There can be many plausible explanations. I will focus on our thinking and perceptions. Such incidents occur once in a blue moon. Say out of 1000 establishments with identified vulnerabilities of different severity, less than 10 actually meet such a fate over a period of say 5 years. Probability of any 1 establishment actually suffering in a single year is thus less than 0.02%. Adding the plausible improbability of any one particular individual being at the wrong place at the wrong time further subtracts the probability of that single individual actually being a victim in a fire or related disasters. Now arise 2 subbranches explaining  why the need for preparedness gets ignored:
1) The feeling, ” I cannot be that unlucky to fall in that unlucky 0.01% category. If I do actually have so much tough luck and actually fall in that 0.01% category, no matter what I do, the fate is registered. ” Complacency is the root cause of our ill preparedness. In normal days, arguably, we do have huge faith, unknown to us, in the Almighty, tend to rely on Him to bail us out and tend to live today to die another day.
2) We always have the tendency to focus on things which need immediate attention and put things not requiring immediate attention &/or having low probabilities of occurrence, at the back of priority list. Experience tells us that people get caught up so much in day to day operational level activities so much so that the things put at the back remain at the back. When they actually decide to come in the forefront, we need to fight fire with fire.

All have studied that presence of mind can go a long way in minimizing damage, be better safe than sorry, etc in our school books. Time to implement it in daily lives. Disaster management course has been made compulsory in some Universities. Need has come to have a comprehensive course providing sufficient practical training to all. Organisations must be communicated to have at least 5-10% of staff fully trained in disaster management skills and every employee having received atleast theoretical disaster management training . Mock drills need to go beyond mockery. Believe me, achieving these targets are not at all a Herculean task. History has told us that many battles have been lost not because of the might of the enemy outside, but because of foolishness and lack of presence of mind from the vanquished. Enemies in the form of natural and man-made disasters don’t seek our appointment while striking. There is definitely a limit to which we can defend ourselves. But by being prepared and applying a little presence of mind can go a long way in defeating the purpose of the enemy. We need to do something ourselves also apart from just relying on the Almighty !

Posted in General learnings | Leave a comment

Shall we tell the President

Politics never ceases to make news, does it ? The latest in the series are elections for the First Citizen of the country & for the First time we are hearing so much noise and fuss from all sorts of parties. Every party has nominated itself in naming the next President of the country. Lets see who might emerge victorious and who gets vanquished in this Great Indian Tamasha.

Veto Power

She is like United States of India. No matter how much other smaller players make noise, it seems nothing can proceed without her signature on the dotted line. With her choice already in the PM’s seat, getting to choose her candidate for president’s post is yet another feather in her cap. By getting a strong, popular minister ‘promoted’ to a perpetual silent post of the President, she might now have better control over her government & thus might have just killed 2 birds with 1 stone. The PM  will now have good company of his old friend in his ‘Keep Silence’ classes.

Sitting on the fence

In politics, there are no permanent friends or enemies. It was amply displayed by the regional parties in UP. Probably, they  have a lucky draw box ready by their side and pick up a new chit from the box everyday while announcing their candidate for the Prez post. There are no free gifts in politics. They must definitely be promised something ‘big’ in return from the centre for supporting Her Majesty’s candidate.

Flash in the pan

The Bengal Tigress seems like a newbie IPL player; making waves for a short time & then settling back to a more normal, subdued level. This was the fate of the Left last time. In every tenure of the UPA government, the capital gets shifted temporarily from Delhi to Kolkata , again to be returned to Delhi sooner or later. The Tigress has herself done a lot of bad to herself, with all sorts of ridiculous decisions in the last year as the CM. Realizing that she is not getting as much bhav as she always hopes for, she might fall in line this time, just like her other once day long friends from UP have done.

House in disarray

Our first PM had once said that organisations fall not because of the might of enemy but because of factions within. It is very much true of the main opposition party of India. Infact    UPA’s allies are nowadays proving to be better opposition parties to the government than NDA itself! While NDA continues to struggle to keep its house in order, it seems to have no time in discussing its next move in announcing its candidate for the Prez post. It may decide to throw up some random names, anyway unlikely to make it to the post & then eventually agree to the nominee of the UPA. The biggest beneficiary of the weak NDA has been the UPA as its own countless inefficiencies always get masked by the fact that it remains a relatively better national party, much better than the directionless NDA or the countless regional parties.

Everyone is aware of the fact that the role of President in the administration of the country is nominal. Yet all the parties are making a mountain out of a mole. Probably nowadays it has become a habit to make a fuss out of every small thing and political parties can’t be far behind. Time spent on Prez election campaigning by the political parties could have spent instead on discharging public duties.Yet, lets hope that the long time troubleshooter of the Congress makes a mark in his new role and becomes one of the most popular, visible President of the country.

Posted in General learnings | 3 Comments

GOD save the Gentleman’s Game

No matter how much you decide to consciously avoid discussing about cricket, being an Indian, you cannot resist the temptation to talk about this grand religion. I dedicate my 80th post to the recent happenings on & off the field of cricket and the dangers the game is facing as a result of the same.

A BIG WIN ???

The City of Joy emerged as the most successful city a week back. No, I am not talking about economic development and growth; the parameter for success was the recently concluded grand reality show in which the city emerged as victors. IPL has seen cricket and Bollywood getting mixed together, but what we saw on our TV screens was amazing. For the first time, politics was merged with a sport with such extravaganza. It would have been much better if the Chief Minister would have achieved something BIG for the state in the last 1 year and then held grand celebrations. Instead, she cashed on big time on the sentiments which we Indians have for this game and “forced” the Feel Good factor and forced people to celebrate on the streets (Those very streets which are quite dirty in this city due to indifferent civic authorities). This victory in cricket might be sadly enough to ensure “Saat khoon Maaf” for the failed state government. The victory also caused no harm to the wearing brand image of the superstar. Analysis of his own celebrations after the victory can be a topic for some other post… The current cashing on this game reminds me of the festivals in India and its holy religious places. All have been turned into a base for political aspirations and other political interests. Sadly, with the alarming mixing of politics into cricket, the game is now slowly but surely heading the same way.

BT more interesting than TOI ?

IPL has ensured that the focus on off-field news like parties, controversies, scams,etc is as much as that on the on-field news, if not more.Perhaps Page 3 has become more important that page 23. Unlike other sports, the game had survived focus on unnecessary news on WAGS, drinks, drug abuse, etc etc for quite some time, perhaps not anymore.

Change in preferences

Everyone criticised the SLinga when he decided to retire from tests. More recently another smashing batsman from England has decided to call it a day from ODIs. The marriage of the Carribean smasher with his team management is always on the verge of divorce. The preferences of players has clearly changed. If they are getting millions for playing a few 3 hour games, why toil hard for hours together for lesser money. Yes, the name on the front of the jersey changes from that of your country to some county, but in the age of making quick money, does anybody really care ? No need to look abroad. In our own country, we are no longer producing Dravids & laxmans. All that we are , are a set of baseball players whose only intention seems to hit each and every ball out of the park. Some real change is needed to stop this undesirable change.

Unfortunately that change has not come from ICC

ICC guys need to go back to school and learn the real meaning of strategy. The problem at hand is real: Tests, ODIs are losing their popularity alarmingly, thanks to the phenomenal rise of county T20 cricket. The steps taken by it, are as usual,  too cosmetic to bring about any real change. How will introduction of 2 bouncers per over or pulling an extra fielder inside the 30 yard circle bring in more crowds to the stands? Or how will leaving the choice of day night tests to the participating teams fill up the empty stands during the tests ? Also the fact that ICC has not even considered changing a proven faulty D/L method is unfortunate. I am a strong advocate of the change in ODI structure suggested by the little master. By this way, the ODIs would combine the unique characteristics of 2 innings of tests and a 20 over per side at a time of the T20s. Maybe ICC is too feeble to give it a shot. As far as tests are concerned, let us accept the reality. Fans just don’t have the time or the motivation to watch a 5 day long event, which anyway results in a dead draw more often than not. Real entertainment is offered by the new format. And to add to it, the world is anyway not producing enough Test greats anymore. The difficult and the most challenging time for a great sportsman is to understand change and call it quits at the right time before being forcefully “thrown out”. Tests have been a hero for decades and produced heroes for long. Has the time come to call it quits ? I am for a phased and planned exit strategy. But it all depends on what the governors of this game think and act. In all probability, no real change will be introduced by them and the popularity of tests in the current format will continue to diminish..

The gentleman’s game is a beautiful game with a lot of learnings from it as I have mentioned in What has cricket taught me. Let us not reduce it to a just a tool for brand building for politics or Bollywood or just produce pinch hitters who make great bucks through short matches, but are not great fans of the delicate cuts,glance, flicks or the defence shots. Let it remain a good source of entertainment for news on the field and not much from off the field.

Posted in General learnings | Tagged , | Leave a comment