Sunday, October 24, 2010

Love thy Cricket

I am back to writing...and the tribute goes to the latest addition to my friend's list :)

With the latest report of Suresh Raina being implicated in meeting some illegal bookie's accomplice during the last Indian tour to Sri Lanka...I thought why not touch upon this very complicated yet serious issue
I totally agree that any player who fixes a match or a few actions of his during any match should be dealt with seriously... but having said doesn’t mean that any player who meets someone who accidently happens to be in some way linked to some illegal bookie is a match fixer

But all this presents a curious case for all of us…if we really don’t take every action with a pinch of salt then how do we act to maintain the sanctity of the game, which we all love to the level of madness!! This is what makes it complicated. Where do we draw the line between personal and professional?

I think this is where ICC and the cricket boards have to come together and pass a strict message in a coherent voice that they all are on a same page on this and will act on it with all truthfulness and sincerity. After all, they all owe a great deal to the spectators and cricket lovers across the world!!

The message has to come across swiftly and clearly to the players as to what all expect from them and how can the boards and ICC and ACSU can do to fix the rut. There should be sessions on ACSU and its activities and actions should be made as transparent as possible. Players on their part should know that this is all for the game, to regain the faith of the fans and to make things clear to everyone.

The governments across the world should also come forward to share any such information which might eventually help all of us in our fight against the menace. Everyone should agree that this is not making some news public for the heck of it and hence defaming the game we all love. Rather, it is being transparent in the best manner possible and being open to everything and anything and telling our fans across the world that we care for you and the game. Because it is the fans who make or mar any sport or art.

The players have the greatest role to play. They have to act responsibly and understand in no clear terms that it is the fans who make them icons and celebrities. If the fans loose interest in the game, they might loose their any status overnight and our beloved game may loose ground too. They have to believe that being in the game and playing for the country is the best thing to happen to them and they can earn much more being in the game for long than earning those peanuts for some irresponsible action. I don’t have to quote any examples to give proof to this theory. I am sure they understand that ICC, ACSU and their local cricket body will be keeping a close tab on each one of them. Hence, they have to take it easy and act responsibly. At the end of the day, the onus of all this, is on the players.

And not to forget the fans, who can take any sport to dizzying heights. Even they have a role to play; they should not loose faith on the basis of any lone freaking news or incident. They should realise that every stakeholder is doing its bit to fix this problem and hence they have to just maintain their calm.

I know this great game of cricket will overcome these hard days soon and we will rock again and take it to greater heights. Just that we need to be realistic and remain calm. Love thy Cricket!!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

From the Steel City – Best years at the alma mater

I am sure, most of the engineers; especially the ones from NIT Rourkela would agree with me that most happening and most unforgettable time at our alma mater was the first year and the final year.

First year was mostly dedicated to the ragging time, ragging fundae, third button, seniors and just going to the college and coming back. Some of the unforgettable memories! The friends that you made during the ragging period are some of your best friends for life! And why not, you spend time together learning and practicing the ragging fundae, being together facing the ‘monster’ called senior. Also, there would be time, where you would see some of the fortunate ones who have been able to understand it, making an honest effort to teach you ‘Power Series’. I still remember, Ashish used to teach us during our first semester, when certain topics would bewilder us, as if they were from a different world! There would be some other times, when a certain friend of yours had spent the whole night taking care of you and teaching you, even when, he knows that there is an exam the next morning and even he needs time to learn some and brush up some!! All thanks to NIT Rourkela that we have been fortunate to get such fellas and friends.

Getting ragging free by the second year seniors was a scene in itself. Can there be something as “official ragging free” when by law ragging was banned in India? But, we were!! J Seniors would ask us “when is your official ragging free??” and would advice, “you can wear jeans after official ragging free, but don’t wear very tight jeans, etc” J Wow!! How can we all forget this? I know, we all remember this well. The official ragging evening was in itself something, no less than a grand culmination to some big event. As if, the Organizing Committee chairman would declare the Olympics closed!! Second year seniors would come and Cultural Secretaries would come with their cohorts and shout “Aaj se tum log ragging free ho”!!

Final Year was another story altogether. Last year’s good campus placement was a good reason to be optimistic of our good fortunes with the placements. And with the economy scorching ahead at a brisk pace after that bust of 2000-01, we left the shores of third year and moved ahead towards final year at NIT Rourkela with a huge sense of optimism. The urgency shown by large companies which came calling even before we officially started our college after the summer vacations of 2004, it seemed everything was rosy for us! And it started with a bang (though we all expected a lot more J), with Infosys placing 47 from the batch and rang the campus placements bell for our batch. With others lined up and gulping fast before one would get space to breathe, it was festival mood everywhere in the campus!

I close my eyes, and the scene, when Arun Rai shouted from the first floor gallery of Placement Deptt. “Gandhi tera ho gaya hai” and came running down with Nishant is still vivid.  And both shouting “bumps do”, “maaro Gandhi ko”, “mote tera bhi ho gaya hai”, “bumps do dono ko”. I swear, no one can ever forget such moments the whole of his life. Till then, we were only bystanders to such scenes, but suddenly, we were a part of such celebrations, and in fact we were the protagonists. Imagine, you studied the whole of your life till then, and suddenly you have moved into a different space, where you don’t have to study (like we used toJ) and what more, you are being paid for your efforts or no efforts, sometimesJ). I remember, I and Vijayendra got through Infosys from the whole gang and rest were all shouting party, party! And what other place to go to party for a Rengolian, than the Radhika Hotel and we quickly rushed.

Many more such parties followed over the next few months and no one was left! No wonder, with a job in hand, there were parties all day and night during the final year. No wonder Final year is one of the best times at NIT Rourkela!!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

IPL controversy snowballs

Whatever happens to the current IPL related chants, we have to accept the fact that it indeed has taken cricket to a whole new world and given it a platform it deserved!

My two cents on the current IPL controversy

It all started with Modi spilling the beans on Kochi IPL stakeowners and especially One Sunanda Pushkar, whom former Minister, Shashi Tharoor is expected to marry soon (though this can take a back seat in the light of this controversy). I am not interested in knowing what is the role of Ms Pushkar in the franchise or what is her role vis-a-vis Mr Former Minister. Neither I am interested to know if Tharoor ever requested Modi not to disclose the owners and their stakes. What I am interested to know is what role actually the former minister enacted in the IPL franchise and was he truthful thus far? From the looks of it, it seems, he did have a role, may be some financial stake as well. If there had not been any role, why would the govtt. ask him to step down and cut a sorry figure in the eyes of the common man. As it is, the govtt, is already running short in respect to the rising prices, Women's bill, Telangana controversy (Thank God! it is not buring right now), Nucler liability bill, etc. If he was not at fault, why shuould the immensely popular and internationally acclaimed minister step down? I agree, since becoming minister last year, he has become controversy's favourite child, but still, I don't buy the argument that he was not at fault and still resigned for moral reasons or whatever.

What can we say about Mr Lalit Modi. From his resume, it seems, he has a penchant for the wrong! But, everytime he has come back strong and better equipped! I bilieve, this time would be no different either! He gave cricket and India something different and something to chear about! An internationally acclaimed brand worth billions within 3 years is something which not even top business houses could ever imagine. No investment, no business would have ever grown so popular in such a short timeframe. His marketing and selling acumen is there for all to see. But I bilieve, the immense popularity of IPL and that everyone wanted their share of the pie and to top it all the fact that he became the most saught after business man, celebrity created all the problems. Did success caught up with him? Did he started taking things for granted and treated everyone else with contempt? Did he manouvered around the law and regulations to help his business causes and his kith and kin? It seems answer to these questions may be a big Yes. His high handedness proved to be his unbecoming. We can't say anything for sure, but answer to many such questions would be interesting to know. I am sure, millions like me want to know these facts.

Another thing that bothers me is that why did our tax authorities, govtt and other agencies react to such happeneings? Why can't they be proactive? Why do they have to wait for some whistleblower to lift the lid? This time again, they joined late! Everyone knows these franchises, BCCI, IPL are all private bodies and hence they don't have to declare any financial or business information. Hence, they can easily play around. With millions at stake and numerous theories flying across about the financial status of the franchises over the internet and other media, it should have been reason d'etre for all such investigations. Nevertheless, better late than never!

Having said all this, I would be as interested to know the facts and outcome of the investigations as you and would be following the drama all over! I sincerely hope, none of the witnesses turn hostile and this one doesnt run into years as many have over the past :)

Sunday, April 18, 2010

IPL takes the everyone by storm

I know the title above sounds like a cliché :) Not that I couldn't find something which would sound better and attractive to the audience, but I wanted to put this to bring a point into perspective. T20 cricket was conceptualized just a few years ago by someone who has long been forgotten and never knew that it would generate the moolah like it is now, otherwise he would have put a royalty fee to his idea :) He just tried it out to bring some loyal supporters back to the English county cricket and make it enjoyable for the teams as well as the audience.

Look at it now, it indeed has taken the world by storm, just look around and we see everything which is suited to this shortest version of the game. We have T20 leagues all around the world. Cricket boards have risen to the fact that to keep themselves going and maintaining the spectator interest they have to adopt this newest child and pamper it to the hilt. Even corporates and celebrities have put in some huge amounts and we can see them all having fun at the grounds – showing their famous dimples, smiles, dance moves, and then the latest one – tweeting to “connect with their fans”. The players are also having some good time – get to earn astronomical amounts of money which was never heard of in cricket, learn, compete with the best in the business and if they are lucky, as some of them have been, get hugs and kisses from their famous and beautiful owners :)
Before we lay threadbare some of the other interesting facts about IPL, lets understand the business model that this competition adopts and see its merits and demerits. All in all, the major inflow of money to the league comes from the following
> Media Rights
> Central Pool – includes title sponsorship and licensed merchandise
> Money raised by the franchises – in stadia advertisement, licensing products, merchandising, advertisements 
   on tickets, and gate receipts
> Franchise bid money
Out of this money that comes into the IPL, all but franchise bid money is shared across the BCCI and franchises and if franchises wish, between the players as well.

Apart from everything that is money in IPL, what are the other benefits that have risen out of IPL. For the players, it is a world level platform, where they are earning much more during this 40-50 day period than they would otherwise for the rest of the year (For some, I might sound over optimistic here :)). They get to share dressing rooms with the best in the world and get to feel how it is playing at the international arena under the glare of the lenses and where every smart catch and pathetic running between the wickets is being watched and liked and ridiculed globally. Imagine how it would feel for someone like Saurabh Tiwary to play alongside Sachin Tendulkar and learn some tricks of the trade. Would someone like Yusuf Pathan had ever dreamt of playing and being coached by Shane Warne and being pampered by him, like he is? And see the transformation, over the last few years, since IPL1, Yusuf has become a regular member of the Indian T20 and ODI squad and bowlers world over dread him for his batting histrionics. Since then, every captain, wants to see the back of Yusuf as soon as he comes out to bat. Experts say that since IPL1, he has improved a lot in his batting and bowling both. Some of the players, like Ravindra Jadeja and Yusuf Pathan should thank IPL very much that this gave them a platform to showcase their talent and earn an Indian blue jersey.

Earlier, the Indian domestic teams for the Ranji trophy and the likes except the zonal teams only had players from their respective states, with only a few exceptions here and there. This somehow, seemed like a regional bias. But with the advent of IPL, we see players from North Indian states playing for the team from the land of “Marathi Manoos”. Thanks to the clout that the BCCI enjoys, that those regular chants from the “manoos” have been allowed. Who knows, may be some mouthpiece would condemn the Ambanis to employ the services of a North Indian Harbhajan Singh for the team from Mumbai.

The corporates and celebrities who have invested some huge amounts of money into buying their respective franchises also seem to give thumbs up to this carnival of cricket. Mind you, these are some of the best business minds of the country and some of the best known faces in the Indian social circuit that they wouldn't have missed a point before investing millions into them. According to some estimates, over the 3 years of its inception, IPL has grown to be a brand worth more than $4 billion and continues to grow and bring more into its ambit. Critics, say millions invested into buying the franchises and then buying cricketers is not a sane business idea and may take years for them to come out of the red. But, I ask them a simple question, unless, a sound business idea was shown to the prospective bidders for the franchises, why would some sane person or a large business house put in such monies for which they might be accountable to the public too. Also, the business model discussed above seems pretty okay for most of the franchises to turn profitable in a year or two of their inception. Having said that, understand all from how things stand now, after 3 years into the IPL mania. 2 new franchises were bought together for an amount more than what was spent for 8 of the old ones 3 years back. 10 second advertisement spots for the IPL3 league matches were sold for Rs 4.5 lakh, which is 200% more than the price for similar ad spot during IPL1 in 2008 and this rose to Rs. 5.25 lakh as the league progressed. For the semi finals and final, these rates are expected to shoot to more than Rs. 6.5 lakh per 10 second spot. For all this, Sony Max is expected to rein in Rs 700 crore during IPL3 this year. All product launches, special cricket based advertisements and events have all aligned themselves to the IPL window. All this is generating money and much moolah as expected.

When the players and the business houses are enjoying their association with IPL, how can the most important stakeholder – the quintessential cricket fan be left behind? And people – we are right up there, sharing the stands with the likes to those celebrities and enjoying to the core. Most of the venues running to packed houses is a testimony in itself that we are all involved and sharing our moments in the sun. The concept was new to us – city teams, clubs and the format – all enchanted us and with the fact that it was cricket – the national pastime and passion, we all got into the thick of the things quickly and with vigour. It has given us enough to spend our after-office hours with our friends and loved ones together and enjoy a few hours, being treated to that barrage of fours and sixes, scoops and free hits.

The BCCI, the parent body and owners of the IPL are the ones who are smiling the most. And why wouldn't they not, they are earning the most of the money that is being generated from the league. They keep a share from everything that is money from the league, be it media rights, gate receipts, merchandise deals and sponsorships.  IPL has led BCCI to get another point to wrestle themselves with the other cash stripped cricket boards of the world and the ICC. Even though, it is not wise to have such a clout rest with just one board, but as they say, who cares, until it doesn’t affect anyone? And whoah!! As I write this has started to affect a few people and everyone is now terming IPL as a saga of Power, Mystery and Deceit!

PS: We shall discuss a few more aspects in the following articles.

Monday, January 4, 2010

From the Steel City – We say it happens in India…but only at NIT Rourkela

If you speak to the alumni of any of the NITs in India, (erstwhile RECs), they can talk to you about the ragging that happened in their college for hours together!! Not because they hated it and found it lousy to make the first year who are just out of their schools party to all that constituted ragging, but because they just enjoyed every bit of it and this can be measured from the fact that even after more than 15-20 years in other cases even more, they still remember their so called ragging period!! That was the beauty of those days that every incident, every moment deserves mention nth number of times.

From the hostel, it was about half a km walk to the college and as per ragging funda, all first year had to walk in a single queue to the college (Funda # 8) and no one has to lead the queue (Funda # 9). Just about the time to leave the hostel before we get late for the class and everyone is waiting for someone to lead the queue. Suddenly, we could see a queue building up and to tell you the one who is standing at the front isn’t aware that a queue has starting building just behind him!! J Oh man!! That was indeed some fun!! And by the time, he is aware of the plot, he is pushed to walk and kick off!! But he was a smart chap too, he would walk a bit and then suddenly change path to quickly move backwards, unleashing the guy behind him to the fury of the seniors!!  Imagine all this happening daily and we would either end up getting late for the class or no go at all.

Come on, it didn’t end here. One fine morning a gentle soul ;) decides to start the procession, seeing around that there was no senior in the vicinity and he started off and behind him all of us. Suddenly a second year senior appears from nowhere; he quietly gets down from his bicycle and shoots a question to the guy leading the pack – “Kyon be (bahen ke bhai!! ;)), Hero hai tu? Lead karega…kahan se hai…state bol jaldi se…” And we all thought in a same vein, “Aaj to gaya yeh”. Before he could utter a word, a few other seniors join in. What a pity, 4 seniors taking on a first year that too just before the start of the day. And the other seniors shouted kyon be (maa ke dulaar!! ;)) tu to sahi mein hero hai!! Tujhe to main kai din se dekh raha hoon!! And they took him aside, leaving the rest of us to run to the college!! God knows what would have happened to him that day!!

Its 12 noon and time to go back to the hostel for lunch. Some of us would think, not to go back as that would save us from the senior fury at least twice in the day!! So helpless we were then, that all our thoughts and actions would depend on only one word – seniors and how to evade them. Again the same old story, who would lead and how to go back, but still somehow we used to manage each day J Out in the open, we would all be “third button” and not looking up, rushing in a queue. And all our efforts would daily go in vain, as if seniors would be waiting for us to come out!! (In fact this was the truth and I have no rights to complain, as we waited like this when had our chances ;))

A senior caught us and we were left asking ;). Quickly he would ask us their pet questions – “Naam bol” and I started “Sir, May I have the Golden opportunity…” (Funda # 4) He said “haan…haan…saari opportunities hain tujhe…bolna start kar…” I started yet again “mera naam Uphar Gandhi hai…main Uttar Pradesh ke Meerut zila ka niwasi hoon” (Funda # 10 – to always say your name in full and then your domicile state and then your home town ;) and Funda # 11 – to always tell all this in pure Hindi). Was I terrified? Yes, I was!! And then he asked “Apne baap ka naam bata”…I replied “Mr. Hare Kishan Singh”…”Oh Hare ka beta hai tu…sahi!” (as if that was an achievement). Don’t think otherwise, this was another ragging funda. Funda # 12 – The immediate senior from your state and from your branch was your techno father, but in regular lingo “tumhaara baap” ;) and if that person happens to be a girl, then “techno mother” or “tumhaari maa” ;) He then asked me certain other questions, which are better not described here ;) and finally he left, asking me to walk in circles ;) Yes, walk in circles with my head down (third button) and who knew that I was actually walking around a cow that was looking at me so angrily that I had to run (only when someone prompted me to run, otherwise, how would I ever know). I ran towards my hostel as if I was running a 100 mt dash!!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Tales from SPJCM – A New Year eve to remember

Man!! If you ask any maygcian (what we call our SPJ batch!!) about the New Year eve at Siloso Beach, Singapore, each one will remember that day still and I guess some of us will remember it for the whole of our lives!!

Oh, a whole lot of questions would be running across your minds by now and you would be thinking what was so special that people would remember a New Year eve the whole of their lives? New Year comes each year and we celebrate it each year too!! So what was so special about it?

Well, I would say, to know truth about anything has only 1 way to it – experience it yourself!! But I would add to it – or hear it directly from the horse’s mouth, because after reading through the lines below, you would be glad that you didn’t experience it, for sure!! And you came to know of it from someone, so who better than the one of the horse! ;)

Siloso Beach Party – a complete freak out place with 8-10 different party zones and some 100K people from across the world all flocked together to bring in the New Year!! Imagine, you dancing the whole night with some girls or may be boys (depending on your choice, ofc!!) who would be all making merry and dancing like never before!! Rain dance, foam dance were the main attractions with all water and foam all around!! Yes man, it was the place to be in Singapore with complete insanity surrounding us.

Girls and Boys were wearing clothes alike and girls were especially dressed like eye candies!! ;) Oh come on, don’t spoil the mood; we were at the beach, as if we were to dive straight into the sea!! With all booze and dancing and fun and frolic, the party was definitely on and we all went with the flow.

2-3 hours into the place and having brought in the New Year 2009 over 41 mins back, I and one of good friends were planning to go again to the foam dance as we had maximum fun there. We were just moving towards the foam dance arena and a guy and a girl came rushing towards us, with the guy shouting “You…you come here…you touched my girl’s butt!!...” He was coming towards us, I said “Me?? No!!” He said, “No not you!!... (a sigh of relief!! but to my horror…he pointed towards my friend beside me) him” and he continued like this. My friend said No Sir!! I didn’t…but he would not listen…we continued saying the same and then the girl said “I know…it was you…why did you do that” We again said…no he didn’t, but to no avail.

Having seen the whole argument continuing for about 10-15 mins now, some of our friends came rushing in, to help us out!! They understood the problem at hand quickly and tried to placate him and convince him that it was not our friend who did it, it must be somebody else and by mistaken she has taken it to be him. Even this continued for another 10-15 mins but both of them would not budge at all.

Suddenly some guards at the location came and asked us what was the matter and having known the matter, they simply asked us to move to the local police station and the officer would handle it now!! WTF!! Why police?? We should handle it here only and close it!! Not that we didn’t try that desperately but these guards would not agree as the guy and the girl were not ready to listen to us.

And we had to move towards the police station, knowing pretty well that a girl complaining meant that our friend was in deep trouble and it could mean anything!! We still tried to convince the guy and the girl that it was not him and please not to take this to the police. But God knows, what was going in their mind, they didn’t agree and we were straight at the Police Station.
Imagine what a welcome to the New Year for us!! At 1:10 AM on January 1, 2009 instead of enjoying like many others around us were, we were standing at the front of the police station, with our dear friend already taken inside and locked in a room!! The police said, as the local officer was not there, all have to wait for him to come.

By now, everyone in our batch had known that this has happened and our friend is caught now and even if a few didn’t know the whole story, they knew something had happened to our friend!! (See how quickly a story would spread in the hostel crowd and that too in the era of 3G and Social Media!!) Girls from our batch came running in to support their “kanhaiya” but even that would not work!! We even tried to speak to a local doctor there who was an Indian (played the distressed Indian(s) in a phoren land card to the fore) and get him run some magic wand to impress upon the police!! But I guess, it was one of those days, when no trick would work!! Half of the batch had gathered outside and around the police station and we were like waiting for our friend to come out and say something good!!

Already more than 2 hours had passed by now!! Our friend was still inside and locked, no one knew what was transpiring inside and that was keeping our anxiety levels high!! With each passing minute, we would pray that nothing happens to him and he comes out easily!! And he came out…rushed quickly towards me, asked me to come out and we spoke for a few seconds and we left the scene and the party arena after a few mins.

Now, you all would be curious to know, (at least who are reading this for the first time and who didn’t know happened inside) how did our friend came out and what exactly happened. Well, to cut the whole story short (that it has gone too long by now), the girl withdrew the complaint against our friend!! But only after having tried her own bit inside the police room where she asked my friend to accept that he did it and finally when she couldn’t win with her self made story, she said, okay…look into my eyes and say that you didn’t do it…and my friend gleefully obliged. Then she took another turn – said you will have to carry this burden the whole of your life, please accept it. And when my friend said the truth that he didn’t do it, she finally obliged and withdrew the complaint!! After all this drama, I and my friend were so pissed off and in no mood to stay there and we left the place!!

OMG!! This incident is and will be etched into my memory forever and I can never forget what happened and how I felt!! Our friend, who had to take all this upon him, had definitely been a strong man mentally and emotionally that he could bear everything for such a long time!! Finally, the truth prevailed!!