Archive for February, 2011

Thoughts on the World Cup…

The announcement of the Aus-Ban 3 ODI series, right after the World Cup points to all that is wrong with cricket administration, especially viewed against the backdrop of the thrilling Ind-Eng ODI.

That the Aus-Ban ODI series is meaningless needs no reiteration. But to think ODI is on its death-bed needs revaluation. The series itself undermines the world cup. After all, what function does the new ODI series claim to do, coming at the wake of the tournament to find out the best ODI side in the world?

It is not the format that is dead. While it is capable of producing thrilling games once in a while, the fact that most of the other games are boring because they often form the bulk of un-necessary seven game series, most of which are played by un-interested teams with major players “rested” in front of bored audiences.  The best days of ODI cricket, in the 90s, were when each game had a significance. There were mostly 3 ODI bilateral series or interesting triangular series scheduled.  Without doubt, if the Ind-Eng WC game were one among 7 in a bilateral series, one of the teams would have given up halfway through the second innings. The game got so close, was that despite being out of it, India showed some fight in the end, and despite the chase looking to be a lost cause, England came out trying to win it.  In a 7 match series, there is always the next game, and in a world where the next ODI series played by the national team is probably a week after the current one, a loss does not matter to the fan or the players.

There is a tamil saying which tells that “Consumed in excess, even the best food will turn into poison”.  Over-consumption is the bane of the ODI.The road ahead for the ICC is to restrict ODI games in bilateral series, so that each game has its importance. What such an restriction will entail is that the revenue model for cricket has to be changed. IPL has led the way in showing what the revenue model should be. Restricting “international” cricket, to probably four or three bilateral series per team in a year, with each series being 2-3 tests and 3 ODIs, will not only free up the stars for more franchisee T20 cricket which could be the revenue stream for cricket but make the series itself more meaningful, and hence more competitive. The bilateral series, will have more implications in rankings, should infuse some extra patriotic fervour among the fans and open up new underlying rivalries, about franchisee team-mates taking on each other. (imagine a world T20 league, administered by the ICC, played all year round) (On that topic, Eng, Aus and SA could as well come up with one such league to compete with the IPL. Obviously BCCI will ban the Indian player from that. But it will be an interesting tussle that will be played out).

It is all but a dream. Come May, India will travel to England and play out 7 ODI’s with uninterested players and spectators.

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The Ind-Eng game, despite being a thrilling tie, was a disappointment for Indian fans. A team, billed as the hot favourites, has had its bowling exposed. Obviously, all of us thought that we could hide our weak bowling line up underneath the heavy duty presence of our strong batting. England showed that no matter what, the weak bowling cannot be hidden. The strong batting itself is partially to blame. Such a line-up demands that belters be prepared, which in turn means that opposition batters can hit the hide out of our hapless bowling.

Now that Yuvraj is back in some sort of form, team selection is also going to be important. Yousuf Pathan’s role in the team is under most question. Clearly, he is in as the hitter. Clearly, Dhoni does not value his bowling much. Which means that YP’s role while batting first would be only meaningful, if India loses its 4th or 5th wicket during the 40-41st over. While chasing, it might allow the top order to bat a little more calmly, but then the pressure is squarely on the man. YP is evidently not a cushion against top-order collapse. He is not that good a batsman to even provide that cushion. If India wanted such a cushion, then Raina was the better choice. So, going into the future games, we should hedge our bets on the strong, and now “in-form” top -middle order to fire, so that we can drop Pathan and get in a bowler. If I were the selector, I would get Ashish Nehra (unfortunately, we have to select the best amongst the worst) and Ashwin (in for Chawla, who in the England game bowled either too short or too full and was milked for runs). Dropping Pathan for a bowler is the more balanced side, in which we have distributed our risks equally. For far too long, we have had extra insurance against a top-order collapse. For a top-order which claims to be the best in business, it should be a shame to even demand that extra insurance by compromising the already weak bowling line-up.

If only the younger Pathan was not injured and in some respectable form.

 

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You’ve got it easy!

I ran into a second year Indian grad student yesterday, as just to make conversation, wished him luck for his upcoming prelim examination. He, in return, enquired about my prelim about two years ago; and my committee. When I told him about my committee, his instinctive response was “Ah! you got it easy”.

Instantly the bulbs for my two pet-peeves flashed.

The first is, without any rhyme or reason, slotting faculty members as good, bad, horrible advisers, examiners, committee members etc. The first year, I had other grad students advising me to stay away from certain faculty, and hope and pray that I do not get them in my committee (we are assigned one “randomly” chosen faculty). When I enquired further, the simplest question being: “How did the faculty member affect you?”, and the truth would just jump out, that the faculty failed some student a million years ago. The grad student did not even think that the student might have been failed for some valid reason. The same happened in IIT-B as well, when one faculty was literally outcast, and no student chose that person as their guide. The reason being that the faculty failed a student the previous year. This time, it was easy for me to find out more about the student, and it did turn out that he did not put in sufficient effort in his project. I try my best, not to pass qualitative judgment about faculty members. I often get emails asking me on which faculty is better as a adviser and asking me to compare two people working on completely different things. My answer is based on my personal interactions, if any with the faculty, and hence, in most cases completely useless to the person sending me the mail. But I know people, making the sort of quantitative appraisal that is being asked, and often on an arbitrary absolute scale.

The second being trying to justify that the other person had it easy. I must confess, I too have tried to do that a few times, but over the past two-three years, I have been making a conscious attempt to not indulge myself in “you’ve got it easy”.  Some examples:

  • This is one is a classic: ICSE vs CBSE. Millions of hours have been wasted debating ICSE toughness because of Shakespeare to CBSE easiness. The funny thing was ISC students would harp on about  Physics and Chemistry being harder in 11th and 12th, whereas the syllabus was almost the same. And, being from Calcutta, where ICSE schools just mushroomed because parents wanted their kids to study ICSE, it was tough times being a CBSE student, always having to defend your board.
  • During undergraduate, chemical was quite cheekily termed as “kam akal”: less brains. And constant chatter would be that chemical students have everything easy. I guess they were not too much off the truth. In my opinion, the undergraduate VTU chemical engineering syllabus results in brain atrophy. But back then, a clutch of the “kam akal” students had only an design course, in which we had to refer to a 5000 page book and draw nasty distillation towers as the only proof that chemical was hard.
  • Other masters students were at the receiving end of “you got it easy” at IIT. The ChemE department had a fairly challenging 1st semester, and personally, it was a refreshing change from the brain atrophy. While, I really enjoyed the hard work; a fair proportion of the rest of my batch mates were earning sympathy from other students by cribbing about how hard the course is.
  • Experiments and labs were beyond me; so I took up a simulation based project, which allowed me to soak up the experimentalists complain how easy it has been for me.
  • And in the first year and a half year, soaked up daily loads of “CS is so hard” from my CS friends.
  • With my working friends, I have been “reverse” doing it, painting a rosy picture of PhD life: no 9-5 types, no phone calls, long boring meetings etc etc.

I dislike “you’ve got it easy” comments because it is half baked, based on either perceptions and second hand information. But, the lot of us, have grown up, feeding from fake pity about our tough courses!

 

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Boring Conversations and some fears

It seems I have nothing left to say. I am bored with the two repetitive conversations, and the one, not so repetitive but most meaningless conversation:

  1. I visited Australia, holidaying with some close friends from Calcutta, and met up some old “friends” ( friend is just too general a term to describe such relationships. We went to school together, had most of our fun together, designed and executed high school pranks together, but have parted ways since school) in Melbourne. A few weeks ago, met with undergraduate friends in Chicago. And with all these people, after a few minutes of updating present details, a few more minutes of trying to talk about how our typical days are, the conversations jump back to memories. After some-time, I am just too tired of just reliving the memories.
  2. With friends in Madison: This has become so repetitive, that I can anticipate what my friend will say, what I will say in return and what he will say in return to that and so on. It will start with one of us talking about the wedding of some random dude from undergraduate. Then, we will all absorb in self-pity of our single lives and our inabilities to get a girl. Rinse and repeat, till last call. Early last year, one of the guys from Madison got married (sort of contradicts our conversations), and when he gets his wife over, we drown ourselves in whisky and endless games of UNO.
  3. Just sometimes, (and although I am grateful that we get out of this conversational infinite loop), 2-3 hours get lost in “discussing” India’s politics and how we can just not improve. I get in all my Rahul baba bashing in, someone tells stuff like indiscipline is our DNA etc and within a few minutes, I stop listening and just hear yada, yada, yada.

I’ve surrounded myself with so many like-minded people in Madison, that differences with my close friends seem to have blown completely out of proportion. (I guess, it is the case with my friends too. Unlike, school or college, my present contacts/acquaintances etc all have a similar background (nerdy, PhD types), while my friends, wherever they end up working, will have people with similar backgrounds.) It is my reaction to these differences that has startled me.

I’ve known Shriram  and Srikant from since 1989. And since that time, we have know the kind of people we are: Shriram is the enthusiast, the spontaneous person, someone, who does not care about plans and things to do, just follows whatever he wants to do. And a damn good “convincer”. Srikant, has this completely laid-back, whatever attitude. He does not care about plans and such, because anything is fine with him. I am the most meticulous of the three. Not spontaneous, not laid-back. I like to plan things out, think about decisions etc. I get specially irritated when things just don’t go according to plans (my dream is to go on an unplanned holiday, just drive wherever kind of holiday, but I know I can never do that)

The clash of personalities was always there. Especially between Shriram and me. The great part about it was, the differences never bothered us. We would get into small fights, but sort it out finally in a manner in which both of us were happy.

But during the Australia trip, the differences just got to my nerves.

(eg. He wanted to spend an extra night in Port Campbell, I wanted to get back to Sydney as planned. We fought, I won, but I felt sour all trip long)

(eg. He wanted to rent a car in Cairns. I thought it was a waste of money. We rented one anyway)

(eg. I wanted to eat quick grab-and-go lunches from Subway, McD etc, he wanted elaborate restaurants. On the whole, this was even)

(eg. Both of us kept fighting on who would drive).

Both of us were expecting that we would get into fights. As we joked when Shriram’s wife tried to mediate: “Come on, we are on a holiday!”, that it is not fun unless we fight. These arguments did not bother me. It was just that, ever so often, I would get frustrated by our different takes. Negative thoughts like, I cannot even get along with my best friends etc would creep into me and make me miserable. It has me scared a lot.

It was not just the fighting, but our approaches to everything. Being surrounded by people who “think” just like I do, I have gotten very comfortable with the manner in which I go about things. To be then, suddenly meeting friends, but with a totally different approach to “go about things”, just yanked me out of my comfort zone.

There are these cliches about best friends just going on as if nothing ever happened. I hope they are just cliches. Time, work, colleagues, your location, have subtle ways of influencing us. I guess, accepting it and adjusting is also a part of “being” the best friend.

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