Monday, March 16, 2015

AB de Villiers and the time to walk the path

As per the ICC rankings, AB de Villiers is the best batsman in the world right now in ODIs. He is the alpha male of ODI batting right now. Not only is he the best batsman overall, he is also the most dominant. He is slightly ahead of Amla, Sangakarra and Kohli overall I think, but quite a bit ahead of them in terms of the sheer fear factor that he brings to the opposition.

I have not seen a batsman who has made batting look more easy in the one day game than how AB de Villiers has been batting of late. With the new rules in play, AB de Villiers pretty much decides which are the 3 or 4 places that the ball can go and then chooses one of them and does that. Sometimes - he chooses just one place and goes through with the shot anyway. But this is not some new age hitter - like a Keiron Pollard or the new kid on the block - who is conquering all in front of him with his power hitting - Glenn Maxwell. AB de Villiers is a world class batsman capable of playing perfectly normal or what we call orthodox cricket, but often chooses the extraordinary option and makes it look ordinary while executing it.

With Dale Steyn and Hashim Amla - two other all time greats as well in his side, AB de Villiers really should be leading his side to World Cup glory. But the group stages have showed that they struggle chasing, in case Amla gets out early; as AB de Villiers is not getting enough support from the rest of the order under pressure. But here's the thing, unless some incredibly good delivery comes up, AB hasn't looked like getting out to a bowler at least. He seems to have so much time to play the ball, it looks like he is sometimes hitting boundaries as an afterthought. In terms of the physical and technical part of the game, AB is right now - as good as anybody I have ever seen hold the cricket bat.

If there is a weakness, if there is a question mark - it is about his decision making. For someone who has such a range of strokes and so much time to play his strokes - he faces a problem of the plenty - when deciding which shot to play. Or if it comes to a run chase - he has to make decisions like - whether to attack and take out a bowler and quickly finish off the game or sometimes play the waiting game. Or it could be a question of farming the strike with lower order batsmen at the crease. The risk-reward questions is what AB has to settle correctly and there perhaps a look at someone like Dhoni's approach might give AB an easier approach to win games.

The World Cup hangs by a thread - that of AB de Villiers' bat. It hasn't been like this - since Sachin Tendulkar in 1996, but an accident of a run out cut short that dream back then. Accidents can happen again, or so can mistakes. The margins of error, are very, very thin right now. But the fact of the matter is very simple - if AB de Villiers plays a big knock -(i)  batting first it will mean he has probably out batted the opposition or (ii) stays not out till the end - South Africa are going to win their matches and consequently the World Cup. It's like Messi and 2014 all over again - the greatest player of a generation at the peak of his powers, seeking World Cup glory. Can he take his country, who are yet to win a knock-out game ever in their World Cup history - through 3 games and to the Cup is the question.

To bring in a Matrix phrase: - AB by now, knows the path. It is time he walks it. 
The World Cup hangs on that bat
PS: Bonus Reading: How AB turned around his career a few years ago.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

The Atlantic piece on ISIS

  1. A few days, back The Atlantic magazine published a really detailed piece by Graeme Wood titled: What ISIS really wants. It is a detailed research piece, well worth a read.
  2. The article has faced some criticism. Two of the better pieces are:  
    1. The Clash of Civilizations That Isn't in The New Yorker ; &  
    2. The Phony Islam of ISIS in The Atlantic, itself.
    3. How Islamic Is Islamic State in The New Statesman
  3. Another most interesting piece is the discussion on the article between Sam Harris and Graeme Wood : The True Believers.
All of them are well worth your time if you are interested in learning about ISIS and how they are being perceived at the moment. What is most disappointing is that there is no semblance of any concrete ideas coming up on how to take them on.

PS: This geography based article on ISIS from some time back is excellent to know how and where - they captured so much land.

Update

Since then, I did find some more interesting video links discussing the topic.

  1. Here's Graeme Wood discussing with Robert Wright (the author of the article in Point 2.1 above). 
  2. Graeme Wood discussing with Mehdi Hasan (the author of the article in Point 2.2 above)
It is rather interesting to note that much of the debate seems to be centered around one word in the original piece. Yes, ONE. And that word being "very", in the line : The reality is that the Islamic State is Islamic. Very Islamic.


Update 2

Monday, March 2, 2015

The PDP - BJP Alliance and a willing suspension of disbelief

The PDP - BJP alliance has got off to - well - let's say an inauspicious start. Within minutes of taking his oath as the new CM of Jammu & Kashmir, Mufti Mohammad Sayed allegedly thanked Pakistan, Millitants and Hurriyat for "allowing" elections to take place peacefully. The actual clip is here and perhaps what he was saying was slightly more nuanced. Nevertheless, apart from causing a lot of heartburn to BJP's supporters, it also provided ammunition to the opposition to corner the government in the Lok Sabha and then stage a walk-out !
It has required some real imagination and actually working on that famous saying : Politics is the art of the possible - to make this government happen. The fractured mandate reflected the fractured polity of the state. This article by Ram Madhav - BJP's chief negotiator gives an insight into what it took for realizing the art of the possible here.
But the early signs are not encouraging at all. Apart from the above mentioned comment on "allowing elections to happen", the new CM has talked about "making the army responsible for its actions", while some PDP folks have allegedly demanded the return of the mortal remains of Afzal Guru. Also, the early news coming in on the allocation of portfolios is not very encouraging for the BJP.
There is very little doubt that the average BJP supporter - who has seen Article 370 being shelved for the time being for instance, will be quite aghast at these statements. I feel that the patience of the BJP leadership will be severely tested - time and again over the coming weeks and months and it will require either a willing suspension of disbelief from the supporters or incredible verbal gymnastics to make this alliance continue for any significant length of time. Stranger things than a PDP-BJP alliance have rarely happened in the past - it will require more strangeness to allow these two strangers to work together in any sort of constructive manner. A lot of heartburns and some humble pie eating will be needed to sustain this for a long time.. Interesting times ahead. 

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. Copy Pasting from this site is allowed only if you give credits. Ok ?