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On BJP’s collapse

Yesterday, Dinesh Amin Mattu had a superb OPED in the Prajavani. As he always does, Dinesh had raised a series of uncomfortable questions for B.S.Yeddyurappa and the Bharatiya Janata Party.

My translation of that appears in Churumuri. Enjoy.

Not to pile on Mysore University but

What the hell are they thinking?

Today The Times of India reports that Mysore University is among the four Indian universities which have entered into a confidential pact with Nestle, a global baby food and commercial food giant, to promote nutrition awareness programmes for adolescent school-going girls in government-run village schools.

I am all for Universities partnering with other public and private institutions especially to create welfare and developmental programs. But these partnerships have to be transparent, and ideally, perhaps not always, non-commercial in nature. This seems to be a program where there is no transparency and in fact when the activists of the Breastfeeding Promotion Network of India (BPNI) filed an RTI request, Nestle didn’t want to provide any details of the program, claiming: “The contents of the programme are of commercial and confidential nature and the disclosure of which may harm our competitive position.

We can surmise what Nestle is thinking but what the hell is wrong with the Mysore University? Does anyone read MOUs in the Crawford Hall and do they get any legal advice before signing agreements like these?

Mysore University’s cheap gimmick

Crawford Hall, Mysore

Crawford Hall, Mysore

(Cross posted in Churumuri)

The Times of India reports that the University of Mysore has decided to confer an honorary doctorate on Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar.

This, I find, incredibly inexplicable.

Don’t get me wrong.

I repeat, don’t get me wrong: I consider Tendulkar to be a phenomenal achiever and, in particular, I have really come to respect how he has reinvented himself as a great defensive batsman.

In the history of world cricket, there aren’t too many instances of  someone with Sachin’s ability for stroke making turning himself into a great, perhaps even the best defensive batsman in the world. I like the way he still retains his childlike enthusiasm and love for the game after more than two decades of playing international cricket.

Naturally, he is deserving of our affection, respect and, indeed, all honours that come his way, including an honorary doctorate degree.

But by the University of Mysore?

Neither the City of Mysore nor the University of Mysore have any relationship with Sachin. None of his great accomplishments have come in this City. So I am not sure what Mysore University seeks to commemorate by honoring Sachin.

Moreover, Mysore University isn’t a national university. And being a State university,  its reach is limited to the districts of Mysore, Hassan, Mandya and Chamarajnagar. So if it recognizes achievers from this region or those from Karnataka, then that would be appropriate.

There is one more surprising factor. The present vice-chancellor Prof V.G.Talawar had famously declared that the game of cricket is a waste of time and he has no use for the sport. This he had said when he was invited to a Ranji Trophy match last year.

Now the same university honors Tendulkar for his cricketing accomplishments?

In another strange decision, the university has also conferred an honorary doctorate on Nalwadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar (1884-1940), seventy years after his death.

Why does the University wants to honor him now? I fail to understand the logic of this decision. Wodeyar, who founded the University in 1916 and was instrumental in the creation of modern Mysore, is a worthy recipient but this award has come about ninety years too late.

The usual cliche that’s strutted out on occasions like this is that by honouring Tendulkar and Wodeyar, Mysore University has honoured itself. But I think this is a cheap gimmick by the University that potentially simply demeans the award. As I said above, both the honourees are surely worthy of the honor that’s being bestowed on them but should they have been honoured now and by the Mysore University?

Who are they going to choose next year? Mahatma Gandhi and Ranjitsinhji?

For the record, I should admit the University syndicate has also chosen four other worthy recipients, and I am particularly delighted that Rajiv Taranath is being honoured.

No nerds, these Bengaluru Cricketers!

After the KSCA elections, Harsha Bhogle had a fascinating set of interviews Anil Kumble, Sanjay Manjrekar and Prof. Ratnakar Shetty on his ”Time Out with Harsha Bhogle” online talk show. While cricketers have been in charge of cricket administration in the past, including in Karnataka, I was struck by what Manjrekar and Shetty had to say about Kumble, Srinath, Dravid and their team.

Manjrekar, in particular, pointed out how Karnataka cricketers in the last two decades seemed to be more curious about and aware of how institutions function when compared to cricketers from other states. For instance, he said, they know how the managing committees of state cricket associations function and he implied that this knowledge explains the electoral success of Kumble et al in the recent elections. If they succeed in their mission, it will be because of this awareness and intellectual curiosity.

Having come off age in a rapidly globalizing and cosmopolitan Bangalore, which had opened itself to the rest of the world, this group is quite well educated and tech savvy. Their cohort of childhood friends and classmates has settled all over the world and brings to them an awareness of the world that is quite different. This I suspect is what they have added to their earlier reputation as gentlemen cricketers.

Addendum: While Kumble didn’t have any specifics on what they plan to do at KSCA, he did say something very interesting, and indeed a very welcome measure: that his team is actively considering changing the bylaws to introduce term limits (two terms) for KSCA office bearers.

Sights and sounds from Gangothri Glades

Here is what our informants saw and heard during the Ranji Trophy match between Karnataka and Baroda at the Gangothri Glades.

Scene 1

The stands filled with school children, Mysore University students and old retirees, watching the game intently. Good stuff.

Scene 2

KSCA invitees stand begins to fill up around 11:30, half-hour before lunch. Young and old, men and women, arrive in time for lunch. Even before the Umpires call ‘lunch’, the invitees rush towards the lunch counter, set this time in the stands and right next to the press box. The unseemly rush of three hundred or more people is short of a food fight and quite a sight. By 1:30 the sated invitees will have left, for a well-earned siesta at home. We thought of inserting a nice Youtube video. Embarrassing.

Scene 3

Overheard a PYT telling her friend, as they exited the KSCA invitee area at the end of the first day’s play: My bums are hurting. Hilarious.

Scene 3

The deafening silence of Karnataka players, who often complain about not having a proper balcony at the Gangothri Glades that keeps them away from the hoi polloi. They dare not complain to the new secretary Javagal Srinath, who might impersonate a drill instructor and make them run ten rounds around Glades. Funny.

Scene 4

Good to see Karnataka players, especially the likes of Abhimanyu Mithun and Manish Pandey, signing autographs and posing for photos with kids. In fact, more of such interactions with the spectators would be in order, especially after practice sessions. Nice.

Scene 5

Occasional teasing of Stuart Binny and Robin Uttappa, the two exciting Karnataka players who haven’t performed in Mysore.

Among the Baroda players, Ambatti Rayadu gets some shouts, thanks to his IPL stints with Mumbai Indians. Cheeky.

Scene 6

Lush green outfield at Gangothri Glades, as the one blot from last year has been set right. It’s just a fabulous sight, in one what’s one of the prettiest cricket grounds anywhere in the world. Pretty.

On boring draws and sustaining spectator interest

To sit in the stands at Gangothri Glades, Mysore, away from the Press box and KSCA invited guest stands, is to realize the great challenge domestic cricket in India faces. Upwards of three thousand spectators are always present in this pretty little stadium, and their cheerful presence is a constant reminder of what’s missing in big Test match centers.

We often hear about the great challenge cricket administrators have set for themselves, of making domestic cricket more appealing to this cricket watching public.

Given that a typical spectator in 2010 is reared on a diet of ODIs, and increasingly T20s, if the proceedings aren’t filled with aggressive stroke making, then there is great disappointment. The spectator applauds even misplaced lofted hits or streaky edges get applauded. Aggressive intent is what he seeks.

Test matches will remain popular. In recent times, aggressive batting has made them quite exciting. More significantly, there is glamous associated with Test cricketers. Even a great defensive innings by Tendulkar is exciting simply because Tendulkar is batting.

Domestic cricket, especially, in its long form, doesn’t offer the same charm or excitement for the typical spectator.

This is true at Gangothri Glades as the game heads towards a draw by the end of third day, lending the fourth day’s play virtually meaningless. In its Ranji Trophy league match against Baroda, Karnataka has a chance to press for a win. An hour after tea on the third day, Karnataka could set a target of over 350 runs but it chose to get batting practice. Explaining the rationale, Karnataka coach K Sanath Kumar said his batsmen needed time in the middle and in any case, his team was assured of qualifying for the knockout stage as the top team from its group; so there was no need to press for a result.

The unasked, and hence unanswered, question was this: Did Sanath Kumar and his team have an obligation towards the spectator? While tactically their decision made sense, should they have aimed for a win and make the contest exciting? Shouldn’t our well-paid domestic cricketers, who benefit greatly from spectator interest in cricket, also seek to entertain the crowd?

We could take the game to smaller centers like Mysore. We could build nice small stadiums, and create better facilities for the spectators. We could offer life security for the domestic player pool by offering decent remuneration and good pension plans. We could create good sporting wickets, with good bounce and carry, along with lush green outfields.

In Mysore, this week we had all these above listed conditions fulfilled. Yet, the action in the middle was pretty dull, and this was true even for the connoisseur, not just for the typical spectator. On day 1, Karnataka made 257 but Baroda’s bowling was disciplined at best, on what was a pretty good wicket, with good bounce and carry. Karnataka’s talented batsmen threw away their wickets, many after pretty good starts. We didn’t see much skill or flair from either team. Baroda was missing its big guns, the Pathan brothers and Munaf Patel, and so was lacking in the flair department. But Karnataka fielded its strongest team, minus Rahul Dravid, and had no excuse. While it did get Baroda out cheaply for 169 on the second day, this wasn’t an inspiring performance.

In fact, a senior Mysore cricketer said that the standard of cricket wasn’t better than what we see in a typical Mysore league cricket match.

When that’s the verdict wtih several talented players with flair on the field, something needs to change, if cricket has to become appealing.

So how do we set this right?

Perhaps, Karnataka aiming for an outright win would have redeemed the game. That’s the obligation that Sanath Kumar and his Karnataka team will have to fulfill. Additionally, they have to draw the spectator into the game. At Mysore, he is already there at Gangothri Glades, and the obligation for the players isn’t to lose his attention.

Eulogizing T. E. Srinivasan, Suresh Menon wrote in Cricinfo last night:

In the 1970s and 80s, he filled the grounds even for league matches. When word spread that he was batting, the crowds appeared miraculously, cheering him on; when he was out, a big chunk disappeared just as miraculously.

Our players too will have to find their inner Srinivasan and make the game exciting for the spectators, if they wish to keep their game etched in popular memory.