The firang fixation

So over the last couple of days I was travelling.. Was at a workshop and amongst a group of people.

The big discussion was US open. There were people who were discussing at length about Federer, Murray, Nasal and Joker with unpronounceable name. Discussed at length.. How one player has reinvented himself… How the other player is not quite there mentally and will make a comeback etc. Not one person mentioned a player who has been around for last 25(?) Years and still winning.. Still reinventing himself. Mr. Leander Paes, take a bow for continuing for so long and still as exhuberent at 42 the way you were at 20.

There is Sania Mirza too who is in the finals but you don’t hear anyone talking about her.

The ones who want to be derisive would probably say that Pages or Sania could not have won if Hingis was not their partner… Yawnnnn.. The age old firang fixation… We don’t consider ourselves good enough unless we get a validation from abroad.

Sure we have started looking beyond cricket and in those sports India doesn’t have teams and individuals worth eulogizing about. Soccer we are way behind and every outing makes us hold our head in despair..

But can we learn to follow those countrymen and women who do well?

People talk about Federer’s forehand or backhand.. But talk about how Paes is perhaps the best doubles player in the world. He has had many partners over his career and he has won!

Talk about Sania (and not about her religion, who she id married to, her religion and her wearing skirt). Here was a girl who was gonna be the marquee Indian player who got pulled down by injuries and now has reinvented herself as a great doubles player…

Beyond the game, Paes and Sania demonstrate a resilience and the ability to look beyond obstacles. About understanding what their strength is and what is the weakness. Taking steps that utilize their strengths and not seat and bemoan their weakness…

They have not let themselves fade away in the onslaught of newer stars.. Or the meteors that flash across the courts…

There are management lessons here.. To persevere.. To reinvent.. And more important… Startups are a big story right now… Everyone is creating a legend around the founders and confounders… How many will last is something no one knows.. Large and established companies will continue to exists, reinvent and get more powerful.

Tony Grieg – You changed the way we viewed cricket on TV

Sharjah circus… that’s the first time I heard him doing the commentary. While Sachin‘s scored those two awesome centuries against the Aussies, it was Grieg going absolutely over the top describing his shots which made the matches come alive – “Oh you little beauty” I probably associate more with Grieg than Bill Lawry. He is the one who turned boring commentary on sub continents into an exciting description of the happenings. Added spice, wit and at times sarcasm to the process.

I used to get up at 5 in the morning for any series played in Australia (even non India games). Just to hear Grieg, Bill Lawry and Richie Benaud. I may not watch the match and be doing something else but the volume used to be loud so that I could catch every word.

Was too young back when he used to play but I remember bits of the series when he had come to India as the Captain and much like the current English team, decimated the Indian spin prowess and mind you… Bedi, Chandrashekar & Prasanna were way way better than the current lot!

And while I might not entirely be correct but he also bought a certain amount of steel into the English Cricket team. Taking on the likes of Thomson, Lillee, Roberts, Holding and co. must have been a daunting task.

He along with Kerry Packer changed the way World played Cricket. He probably saw the future of cricket lot earlier than most and also believed strongly in it to stay with Packer when the entire concept was debunked by various cricket boards. I would imagine that he is perhaps the one who changed cricket for the better. Rest are just followers.

May your soul rest in peace.

Commonwealth Games 2010 – Time to Travel

Now lets see… if these games were happening in lets say ummm Australia or New Zealand or maybe even Timbucktoo, by now there would have been various packages available from various tour operators for travelling to these destinations. Ok so may not have been on the same scale as they are for cricket but they would have been there.

But this tour operator takes the cake! Probably has figured out the interest in the Games in Delhi and the mess the city is in and the fact that all schools and colleges would be closed during the Games… this operator has outbound tour packages titled “Commonwealth Special Packages”… Talk about Indian ingenuity and knowing the pulse of the market.

Ms  Sheila Dixit, so much for the patriotism and nationalistic fervor about the Games… This ad is pretty much reflective of what the man on the street and the streetsmart businessmen think of these Games.

As an aside, caught excerpts of the press conference addressed by Kalmadi and Fennell… quite hilarious on CNN-IBN… while Fennell was saying he is absolutely satisfied with the venues, in the background there were pictures of different venues in utter shambles. Wonder if it was old footage being played in true media style to showcase as if it is latest footage or was it actually new footage… whatever it was, these games are gonna make for some hilarious episodes for super bloopers if someone was to focus on capturing them all.

And yeah, Ms Sonia Gandhi has commented for the first time about the Games. It is probably a couple of years too late but I really hope that she lives up to her word and the corrupt are actually handed out harsh punishment.

And Jatin, how could  you be so gullible and sink your money for government project without a work order?? I suggest you keep all the material that you got from KVIC or whatever and hold another fashion show.

“Common”wealth and Patriotism

Have been reading about all the controversies surrounding the Commonwealth games and had stayed away from writing anything about it. After all in a corrupt country.. when controversies happen about corruption, it obviously means that there are some people who have not been able to dip into the free flow of money and want to ensure that others don’t get it either.

But when someone I respect a lot and consider a real woman of substance questions the patriotism of people who are commenting on  the preparedness of India for these games.. I felt I had to write. Ms Sheila Dixit has made the blunder of same proportion as MS Gill telling Parliament that if any Member of Parliament wants details about financial misappropriation, they should file an application under RTI!

Ms Dixit, I have lived in Delhi for close to 15 years and have seen the city transform for the better and the public of Delhi has also reposed faith in you over and over by electing you but please do not question our patriotism for the mess delhi has been in past couple of years and the mess it is in today… just month and half away from the Games.

Read a week back that all facilities for London Olympics in 2012 are ready and are being tested!! And everything would be in a state of preparedness a year in advance. So where did we go wrong? Forget taking digs at Mr Aiyer and have an action plan in place for a clean up. Either you are completely blind to say that clean up has happened or under the pressure from the party that you are part of, you are forced to utter such inanities.

However, the larger question is… why did India opt to host the Commonwealth games? We do not have a sports culture at all. And no cricket, hockey and soccer on TV does not constitute sports culture. And more importantly why should we be getting orgasmic about Queen’s Baton?? We do not owe allegiance to the Queen nor to anyone else in the world!

The country has been taken for a ride in the name of hosting such an elite event (and I do question the eliteness of CWG). If this hosting of games was going to be exciting, Mr Kalmadi would not have been trying to twist BCCI arm to give out Rs 100 crores and scrounging for sponsorships. Airtel is a sponsor of a complete non event called Champion’s League to be played in South Africa. If they had believed that CWG would be big, they would have been the first one to be the lead sponsor and of course various other brands would have lined up to be part of the event (just a month back every brand worth something was trying to be part of World Cup Soccer where India does not even participate). If people and the brands would have believed that sponsoring or being part of CWG would heighten the national interest and patriotism, we would have already seen various campaigns. I am absolutely sure that many brands are already working on communication strategies that they want in place for the 2011 Cricket World Cup.

Of course, if the telecast rights had been with a channel other than Doordarshan, things might have been better.. mind you just a wee bit better. And no surprises if the rights were to be sold for the Games, none of the leading channels would have even bid. If anything, they would have asked the government to pay for the production cost!

So the common public is not interested. Corporates are not interested (no Public Sector company would have sponsored either if they had a choice) so who are we holding the Games for?

Reminds me of few instances in the corporate world where I have been part of. In a completely inward looking strategy brands and corporates believe that there will be a huge audience just waiting to lap up their offering. Numbers and projections are made and the product is launched… only to fail miserably.

The tourism industry must be in utter shock (their fault entirely if they believed that there will be a huge tourist crowd linked with the games). All the capacity that was built in the hotel industry would soon bring the  rack rates crashing down.

All the business loss that shopping establishments in places like Cannaught Place have suffered, they would never be able to recover them for years after the beautification in the name of Games is over.

And not to forget egg on our collective faces when facilities at various stadias would be up for the entire world to view. We should not talk about patritotism and global conspiracy against India when the foreign journalists take pictures of the shoddiness and show it to the world.

I think Mr Fennel had visited Delhi few months back and he was extremely worried and the entire media and the CWG people had piled on to him for having doubts. Well he would probably have the last laugh now.

Though I do hope that in a manner typical to us, we will manage to have things in place at the last minute. Won’t be world class but would be “Chalta hai” and hopefully our sports people would win a few medals and media too in its usual way would move on to other stories for getting TRPs. But  only if the malaise that is called the Indian system of  ‘make hay while the sun shines’ can be addressed… This country has the potential to be the best… if only we start believing in ourselves rather than finding ways of how to get things done.

A beautiful game through the eyes of a cricket fanatic

Past two weeks have watched the world go crazy about soccer… Every which way you turn, there is something about the World Cup. Not that I was too keen on Asia Cup (in spite of being a fanatic) but still couldn’t stay away from logging into cricinfo for  my daily dose of cricket. Or even catching some of the T20 action from England (my kids were kinda wondering why would I want to watch counties in another country!)

But coming back to the beautiful game. I don’t watch EPL or bundesliga or…. but I do watch world cup… And the past two weeks of watching (and no I don’t watch the match starting midnight) have left me wondering why this game is called beautiful. Most matches to say the least have been boring. The so called favorites are floundering. Is Argentina part of the favorites? Maradona actually is quite an entertainment value on the sidelines and in terms of his quotes.

There is this whole swooning that happens over Brazil.. or Spain or Portugal etc etc and I wonder why… Except for that really freak goal that was scored by Brazil (was it the altitude and the wind that made the ball curve the way it did) there has hardly been any magic to keep one enthralled.. unless the ball constantly moving from one side of the ground to the other, bereft of any strategy, is considered enthralling.

People say that there is intense strategy that is involved in soccer and I am sure there is… and if there is.. then I wonder why Brazil was cribbing about the very defensive approach by North Korea… Hmmm did they expect the Koreans to keel over and play dead and let them score at will? Fans of Brazil of course must be happy today now that Ivory Coast did precisely that last night…

France is another story… They are sounding more and more like the Pakistan Cricket team with all the squabbling that is going on…

Italy… boils down to the last group match to figure what happens to them…

I have watched the world cups in the past and I must say (much to the ire of the soccer lovers) that the game is not beautiful any more… There is a sameness (much like one day cricket between 15th over and till the batting power play that happens).. the flair is missing.. creativity is missing… excitement is missing and yes the commentary sucks big time (get the commentators from South America! even if we don’t understand the language, they sure know how to get people excited).

Oh and by the way… India beat Pakistan! and the match was quite something! and West Indies is putting up a fight against South Africa (must be absolutely shocking for the South Africans).

So while I wait for the Asia Cup final, will watch the World Cup and tonight’s matches should hopefully be fun…