Sunday, January 11, 2015

Two small points on common reactions to a terror attack

After my last post on reactions to a terror attack, I want to make an observation about a couple of the very common and standard responses that I have seen.

1) Terror has no religion. This is commonly spouted by most politicians as well as liberals while condemning the latest terror attack. Case in point, the French President himself said in the aftermath of the attack that the person involved had nothing to do with Islam. Or if we go a few months, back, Barack Obama said ISIS had nothing to do with Islam. Pretty much, every politician in India including Narendra Modi also says the same thing.

I do not agree with this politically correct - bull shit or capitulation. First of all if you say - terror has "no religion" - then are you implying that it has something to do with those who have "no religion " ? Are you implying terror has something to do with Atheism ? But more seriously, if the terrorists are actually telling us that they want an Islamic state or are doing it to avenge their religion's Prophet, how can it have nothing to do with religion ? It can be argued and it should be argued that it is possibly based on a very wrong and distorted view of that religion - and that wrong and distorted view needs to be challenged - sure, but to deny links with religion and all that goes along with its indoctrination and training is simply being in denial.

2) All Muslims must apologize for a terror attack done by Muslims. This is another common response - typically from the other side or the right wing - which asks, nay demands, all Muslims not just condemn but apologize for the misdeeds of the terrorists.

There are a lot of problems with this view:
a) The ones that you are able to communicate with and have a dialogue with, are living in the same society as you are, and have nothing to do with it. If they had anything to do with this, then you wouldn't know them or speak with them anyway.
b) How does a Muslim living in say India or Indonesia bear any obligation for the misdeeds of these terrorists - you cannot logically link the responsibility.
c) What benefit will you gain anyway if a few apologized for the sake of it - it is pointless. What next ?

What happens by making these sort of petulant and stupid demands is that the real issue of terrorism and how to counter it gets lost and gives the opponents of those making this stupid demand a chance to accuse people of bigotry and racism and the debate gets lost. And if you are unlucky you get pwned very badly too :)

So what can you do or ask of Muslims if anything at all ? Nothing in my opinion. Those who are actually living in these middle eastern countries or African countries, from where this radical Islamic terror is emanating - have to find their own solutions. And those living in the democratic world - are and have to be part of the debates in these societies.

Edit: Curiously enough, Garry Kasparov had to see the following today evening itself....

Thursday, January 8, 2015

How do folks react to a a terror attack by Islamic Terrorists ?

So, yesterday, we had yet another terror attack, by Islamic Terrorists. As John Stewart says, you just can't make sense of these things.

Having said that, many folks (and I am guilty of judging myself) do react and we then get to see the views, and more importantly the inherent biases within the people in their reactions.

And in these myriad reactions, I did some very, very broad generalizations to categorize the reaction of the different types of people as to how they react to a terror attack by Islamic terrorists. Note : these reactions are when a "western" or democratic country is attacked and not say for ISIS related attacks in the middle -east.

 I wonder if others think this categorization is reasonably accurate.

PS: Where should anyone stand on such issues ? Apart from a feeling of solidarity and grief with the victims, there is no one right answer that I know of, for all the other questions. Where do I stand - I admit I am what a lot of people would call a bigot in this matter, and my views are probably closest to Type 2. I could be Type 1 as well if you consider that in India - Type 2 is not really a category. And my biggest problem is with folks in Type 3 - because they control the dominant media narrative. But more bitching about that on some other day.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

A Debate

I have followed this debate about Islam, over the last few months and found this entire debate rather interesting. Here are some of the more important videos and some good articles about this debate that I found.

1) A Bill Maher monologue

2) Reza Aslan slamming Maher.

Some fact checks about Aslan's claims: Revisiting Reza Aslan's response to Bill Maher about female genital mutilation

A critique : Critics Of New Atheists Are Becoming More Slanderous In Their Quest To Defend Islam

3) This is where it went really viral. When Ben Affleck and Sam Harris had a debate on the Bill Maher show.

This was a great peace by a Pakistani woman: An Open Letter to Ben Affleck

And on the same topic this was a great read too: An Open Letter to Moderate Muslims

4) Reza Aslan brings more "sophistication" while reacting to the debate.

Some further reading  on this topic in writings  by Reza Aslan and here's another one:

5) Sam Harris defends himself here.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Old Forward: Cricketer Funny Bios

DISCLAIMER: I am not the writer of the below material. I first came across them in the Bulletin Board of my previous company and folks there too forwarded without attribution.

A google search of some of the text gave only a couple of matches. Perhaps this is where we find that the original author could be one who writes at, but that one is a blog open to invited readers. Here's the best stuff from that page, published below for easy reading and as a fan.

Anil Kumble
Anil Kumble was to bowling what Dravid is to batting. Dravid redefined batting by not playing a shot, Kumble redefined spin bowling by not spinning the ball. Dravid was associated with the straight bat; Kumble with the straight ball.
It is an irony that a man named after a circle preferred to bowl straight. This wasn't because he couldn't spin the ball. One of the cleverest bowlers of all time, Kumble estimated early on in his career that a leg break- googly bowler could beat batsmen only half the time- either when he played a leg break mistaking it for a googly or when he played a googly mistaking it for a legbreak. He discovered that if he bowled straight, a batsman playing either for the googly or the leg break could be foxed.
Consequently, his leg breaks never turned. He had a variation- the deadly flipper which was bowled with the same action as the leg break and didn't turn. In fact, it was identical to the leg break in all respects, except that he called it a flipper.
To understand how this enabled him to get wickets, one should remember again that Kumble was one of the cleverst cricketers to have played the game. Having read in his childhood how Clarie Grimett used to snap his fingers, thus leading to the impression that he had bowled a flipper, and then bowl a leg break, Kumble used to do the same.
The batsmen, having read the Grimett story themselves, would realise that Kumble was bowling the leg break while pretending to bowl the flipper.
Howeve, since they also knew that the two were the same, this paradox would so confuse them that they would be dazed for a while. One second of indecision against Kumble would of course be deadly.
Kumble's moment of glory came when he took 10 wickets in an innings against Pakistan. The umpiring decisions were all correct, though one of them, that of Akram being given out leg before wicket when Younis was in fact the batsman facing, is sometimes debated.
On Indian tracks against lefthanders in the second innings, Kumble was deadly, especially if the track had stones planted on it at crucial spots. He used to call them 'his precious stones."
Kumble is particularly noted for his dive. The dive was always like the rotation of the windmill which allows the wind to pass through. Stopping the ball was never the priority. After all, why risk getting injured when the whole team depended on you?
Never one to stand in the way of young talent, Kumble has decided to call it a day when people ask why and not why not. In an announcement that made his sacrifice and quest towards perfection abundantly clear, he said in a recenrt conference that he would retire after taking eleven wickets in an innings.
When a journalist reminded him that it had never happened so far, he said that that was precisely the reason why he wanted to be the first to do it. Since he had taken 10 wickets in an innings once, he hoped to be able to replicate the feat, since everyone knew that No. 11 was the easiest to get out. His logic was as sharp as ever.
A career that started with a paradox has ended in one- people wonder how this gentle giant, this non-spinning spinner can simultaneously be the proud master of world cricket while being a humble servant of Indian cricket. Such are the questions that this cricketer who had all the answers will leave for us.
All said and done, Kumble is undoubtedly the finest spinner to ever play cricket and the second best leg spinner India has ever produced.
Ajit Agarkar
Agarkar is the only cricketer to have his biography started during his playing career. However, the book is yet to be finished because a chapter on three reasons why he's not a total waste as a cricketer is still not completed even after three months of it having been started.
Agarkar is an animal and bird lover with a particular liking for ducks. A team mate challenged him to eat duck for five meals in a row. He lost the bet, but made amends on the cricket field.
Widely panned for being short and wide all the time, he once bowled eighty balls without even one being short and wide. This was particularly impressive when you consider that all of them were either short or wide. He went for 137 runs, but not before he had demonstrated his point.
As a bowler, his variety was bewildeing. His arsenal included bouncers outside off and down leg, full tosses, overpitched deliveries, noballs and wides. He is the only bowler to have achieved the quadruple (the feat of bowling at least one wide each down leg side and outside off stump to both lefties and righties in the same match) 50 times.
He used to practise with a red carpet laid out on the entire pitch. He used to be able to pitch the ball anywhere outside the carpet at will, in keeping with the great traditions of Indian fast bowlers. This used to be called Agarkar's red carpet welcome to batsmen.
Saurav Ganguly
He famously hit an explosive hundred against SL in Taunton with so many sixes that the residents of the town thought they were being bombed.
Towards the end of his career, Ganguly spent 20% of the time convincing the media that he'd never fought with Greg Chappell, 20% convincing them that he didn't have a problem with the short ball, and 60% convincing them that he'd never fought with Greg Chappel about having a problem with the short ball. The remaining time he spent in improving his rapport with the coach and comfort factor against the short ball.
His inclusion/exclusion in the team was used by scientists at the University of Michigan as the starting point for random number generation. It is said that Dravid used to carry a coin around with him and toss it to determine whether Ganguly should play or not.
His career ended when Greg Chappel suggested a new system whereby the coin was substituted by two dice. If the sum of the two scores on rolling them was greater than 14, Ganguly would play.
Ganguly also played soccer. Dravid had a high regard for Ganguly's abilities as a soccer player, once paying him the ultimate compliment- that if he played soccer with God, God would be off side first and then Ganguly. His natural instinct to kick the ball led to a large number of lbw dismissals while playing cricket.
A wonderful defender, he could play on either wing. By an amazing coincidence, like in cricket, Ganguly alternated between being left out and being right back in soccer too.
Rahul Dravid
The great batsmen make fielders redundant by the brilliance of their stroke play. Dravid is the greatest of them all- he makes fielders redundant by refusing to play any shot.
Most batsmen have no shot as their favourite. Dravid's favourite is no shot. While other batsmen would play bread and butter shots, he would offer none and hence got the nickname of "Jammie".
He is a textbook cricketer- a champion at book cricket, which is also the only game where he ever scored more than two runs in one try.
Dravid has always been a tough nut to crack for opposing captains. This is particularly true of one-day cricket where over the first half of his career, opposing captains worried themselves sick about how to get him out.
However, he evolved as a batsman, like all champion cricketers do, and posed tougher questions towards the second half of his career when captains started losing sleep over how to not get him out, since they felt their best chance was to keep him at the crease.
In an ODI final recently, when Dravid was caught at point, he had faced 60 balls and had a strike rate of 5. The captain, who desperately hoped that the fielder would drop the ball, promptly admonished the fielder saying that "You've just caught the World cup, my son."
Dravid is famous for knowing where his offstump is. Once, when Lee had sent his offstump cartwheeling out of the ground, he was able to locate it in the crowd because he still knew where his off stump was.
Dravid's batting is built on sound fundamentals and the simple strategy of boring the bowler to death and putting the fielders to sleep. He then attempts to find the gaps between them.
Dravid is so strong on the leg side that 0-12 fields are frequently employed to stop him. He plays the swivel pull beautifully- eyes on the ball, rocking back, judging the length early. It is a shot of great beauty, especially in the rare instances when he succeeds in making contact with the ball too.
Dravid's batting philosophy in Tests is simple. Give the first 90 overs each day to the bowler, see out even the horrible balls and and then look to dominate. This is not because of a limited repertoire of shots. He had all the shots in the book, but never plays even one in the interest of the team.
Wisden, talking about his debut innings, remarked that "Dravid, a compulsive leaver of the ball, played an innings so breathtaking that it was supposed to be the best innings by him in England till then" and added that "so pretty was the innings that it was even prettier than Ganguly's cherubic face when he was in a deep slumber at the non-striker's end. Fielders stood rooted to the ground, maybe because they figured out they weren't required since no shot was being played. Some say that they were actually in a stupor induced daze. It is even rumoured that a couple were sleepwalking."
He frequently dropped anchor, doing to the team's score what an anchor does to a ship.
But his finest hour was an innings that is still talked off with awe by people fortunate enough to see it. India were in a crisis as usual. In an innings of vintage class, Dravid showcased his superb defensive technique- getting in line with the ball and playing it with a still head and a dead bat. He proceeded to do this ball after ball, six times in a row.
So complete was his mastery that he even defended balls which were wide outside off and down leg, which would have been called wides. It was such an astonishing display under the circumstances that even the fielding team purportedly patted him on the back after the over.
Nothing- not even the docile nature of the track, the utter ineffectiveness of the bowling or the fact that India required 24 runs in 12 balls at the beginning of that over- could shake his resolve. He was a batsman well and truly in the zone.
Sadly, Tendulkar, uninspired by such mastery of defence, chickened out and took the easy way out by hitting the last six balls for four. As ever, in a country that refuses to acknowledge any other batsman, all the plaudits went to him.
Venkatesh Prasad
Prasad had a fascination for the theory of relativity and spent his career examining whether there was a lower limit for speed. The speed at which Prasad bowled has now been accepted as the lowest possible velocity possible.
Prasad had a very good record against many batsmen, especially the ones he had never bowled to. Among batsmen he did bowl to, Gary Kirsten was his bunny.
It all started when Prasad bowled Gary Kirsten in the second innings with a ball he bowled in the South African first innings. Kirsten was so bamboozled by this incident that he used to quake in his boots when facing Prasad later on.
Kirsten said once that facing Prasad was his most educative experience on the Cricket field, since he used to read the autobiographies of famous batsmen when waiting for the ball to arrive. He claimed to have read more books in this fashion than in his entire life outside the stadium.
Frequently, Prasad bowled so slow that all six of his balls in the over were in the air at the same time. This enabled India to take 6 new balls. This was his primary contribution to the team and the reason why his slow ball was considered to be such an asset.
Prasad's batting was less of an asset. In fact, he was such a horrible batsmen that even net bowlers refused to bowl to him, saying they'd rather bowl at the stumps without a batsman.
To improve his batting credentials without taking recourse to any other bowler having to bowl at him, he devised the unique training regimen of bowling in the morning, having lunch and a siesta and returning late afternoon to face the balls that he had bowled in the morning. His batting against himslef improved by leaps and bounds. However, facing himself was hardly the ideal preparation to face any bowler who bowled faster than a lethargic snail and consequently, his batting at the international stage hardly showed any signs of improvement.
He worked on his fielding to make up, and toward the end of his career, so improved his fielding that he was able to reach as close to any ball in the outfield as possible without actually being near enough to stopping it. This gave Indian cricket its second enduring image of the 90s along with the Kumble dive, that of the ball crossing the boundary and Prasad running past it just after the nick of time. The distance between him and the ball has now been accepted by physicists as the shortest distance possible.
After a glorious few years, Prasad lost his place in the side when the selectors found out that the years had taken their toll and that he had lost his lack of pace. He announced his retirement when his bowling slowed down so much that he had diffulty in getting the ball to come out of his hand.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Monday, September 22, 2014

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Fault in Our "Stars"

Below is a series of my thoughts after our latest debacle in England. (It contains mostly links to my previous posts, don't click on them if you don't want to read them).
  1. When India won the world cup in 2011, I knew that it was going to be all downhill from here. I just didn't know how steep the incline would be. 
  2. I thought that two consecutive 4-0 losses to England in 2011 and Austraila in 2011-12 were the real low points. I went through the five stages of grief then
  3. The home defeat to England rankled somewhat too, but India were bang in the middle of the transition - the writing was on the wall for Gambhir, Sehwag and Tendulkar. And India got out bowled by England in India - which was troubling. 
  4. The home 4-0 win against Australia was pleasantly surprising but this was an Australian quite in turmoil and I was in a celebratory mood
  5. However, just around that time, "Enthu-gate" was happening and all hell was breaking loose. We got to know a little bit about ourselves then too. 
  6. India had rarely played great cricket since the world cup win. The Champions Trophy win however was a pleasant and happy moment in between. 
  7. The short two test tours to South Africa and New Zealand were the start of a new, post Sachin era and the team created opportunities to win 3 out of the 4 matches, but ending up losing 1 and drawing 2 of those matches. Eventually both series were lost 1-0, leading me to ask lots of questions
  8. Then this England tour happened, we found ourselves 1-0 up after the 2nd test, and then put up three incredibly poor performances, each one worse than the previous. It was incredible, but sadly after a while absolutely predictable. 
  9. Maybe 3-4 years ago, I had penned a tongue in cheek post and kept it in my drafts. Then just for fun I went ahead and put it up in Aug 2012. After the promising displays of batting in South Africa and New Zealand, I had thought that the answers to the letter and the challenge in it had come, but this England tour has however changed the answers. It does not feel good.
I am not one of those that likes judging the character of players based on their performances. Fighting spirit and all that are good to read, but I am not really sure - one can say that for example Kohli lacked application or fighting spirit or courage during his horror series. Similarly I don't like to think that lack of hunger is a valid point. Sure, these cricketers are rich, and don't have to worry about earning a livelihood like the players 20-30 years ago, but that can't be the reason why they would be casual or not care - right ?

 I can't make sense of many things. For example: when we used to play shorter test series, typically we would lose the first match and then sometimes gradually improve and often lamented saying if only the series would have been longer than 2/3 tests, we would have won a match(es) . And yet this time, we started off all right and progressively got worse and worse each day literally after the 2nd test.
  • Are India selecting the best XI every time they play tests ?
  • Do we know our best team and combination ? Do we know who are our best 6 batsmen and best 5 bowlers ? 
  • I understand fast bowling will never be our strong suit, but why have we stopped producing good spinners ? Actually since when has India producing high quality spinners in the domestic game ? The 2000s, the 90s or even before that ?
  • How much longer should Duncan Fletcher and this coaching staff be persisted with ?
  • Is MSD going to improve his test captaincy ? Can anyone else do a better job than him, given the poor bowling strength of India. Is there an alternative available ? Do we not make changes because there is no obvious alternative ?
  • Is IPL adversely impacting the Indian test team ? Is it adversely impacting the test team but benefiting the ODI and T20 teams ?
  • Do enough fans care about test success ? If we had to choose between being a great test team and an average ODI team or vice-versa - which one would we choose ?
  • Given the state of cricket and the quality of our players, should India just concentrate on ODIs/ T20s and all of accept that playing good test cricket is beyond this current bunch ?
I don't know really. I suspect we have a lot more pain in store for us, before things get better. 
Harvey Dent said: The night is darkest before the dawn. It's a dark night all right. but MSD has probably lived long enough to be the villain now. 

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Final Whistle

The 2014 World Cup ended last Sunday (Monday early morning actually IST) and what a tournament it was. My concluding thoughts in random order:
1) Germany was probably the best "team" of the tournament and while they had their luck in the final, their victory was the culmination of superb planning and execution of a long-term strategy of developing technically sound, talented footballers who play cohesive football. Barney Ronay called this German triumph a victory of "intelligent design".
2) The final itself, despite just yielding a single goal in 120 minutes was rather good. Certainly it was a far better match than the Spain - Netherlands clash in 2010. Argentina and Messi had 3 great opportunities to score, but Higuain, Messi himself and later Palacio all missed their moments. Mario Gotze however took his chance in extra time with great aplomb to score a superb winner for Germany. Germany themselves suffered due to injuries - Khedira got injured during the warm-ups while his replacement in the line-up Kramer also got injured very early on. But they adapted as they went along. Bastian Schweinsteiger was brilliant anchoring the midfield. Argentina perhaps were just marginally better on the day, but it was Germany who took their chance and won the cup.
3) Lionel Messi, rather unfortunately for him, was adjudged the best player of the tournament, unfortunate because it gave his detractors another opportunity to take potshots at him. He may, or may not have been the best player of the tournament, but he was certainly not far from the top. And this article captures quite beautifully perhaps why we are not fully appreciating his genius here and now.
4) There were 171 goals this world cup, here's all of them ranked ! Great memories all. It may or may not have been the best world cup ever, but it certainly had the best/ most fun group stage ever. The world cup was thrilling before the knock-out stages started.
5) I really enjoyed the quality of writing throughout the World Cup. The likes of Jonathan Wilson, Barney Ronay, Raphael Honigstein, Gabriel Marcotti and perhaps most of all Bryan Phillips made it absolutely memorably. This by Bryan Phillips on the World Cup coming to an end - perhaps just summed it up the best.
6) Brazil's spectacular capitulation in the semi-final certainly left lot of people distraught in the host nation and their supporters world wide. But fans certainly had a great time and of all the things out there - I found nothing more spectacular than this video of Argentine fans, taking over a food court in Brazil, singing "that song" !

7) And finally, I had a great time following the world cup with friends - in person, office and of course online. Cannot wait for the next one.

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