Yeh Din

As a birthday gift (contestable) to you, my gentle reader, I will post all the things that have been looming in my head for the past week. All. Watch this space.


India vs. Pakistan in the World Cup Twenty20 Finals. I am sure this is big news in the subcontinent. Yuvraj Singh and Mahendra Dhoni. Imran Nazir and Shahid Afridi. There is a solid defense of the Twenty20 format by Osman Samiuddin from the Pakistani [and Indian, as well] perspective:

About right, too, for the format is one the average Pakistani, fan and player, easily recognises and feels comfortable with. England may have been responsible for institutionalising and selling the concept, but its informal, Asian cousin, played out on streets with apartments as spectators and on grounds with cement pitches and dangerous outfields has long been Pakistan cricket’s lifeline.

This is, then, really the game that us desi kids played and play. The tennis ball version [taped ball or not], usually 10 or 12 overs; the hard ball version, 20 or 25 overs; on a cement pitch; front-foot, across the line batting; block hole, yorker bowling; aggressive fielding, running; uptempo and hurried pace. I have played this version of the game my entire life. Here is the rub, though. When we played this game, the goal was to get better, to learn to stay at the crease, to master the art of bowling according to a plan not as a reaction, to learn to keep control of the ball even after you have hit it. The goal, was to play a full game of cricket. There were/are tons of yuvrags, afridis … everyone had to have such players. They were called dharay (clobberers). I don’t remember any particular pride associated with such a designation.

Admit it. The odds are stacked against the bowler in cricket. The batsman is padded, and has a very thick stick and can catch a break by moving to the non-stricker’s end. The beauty of cricket is to make those odds even out – by pitch, by bowl, by field, by pace. And then ask the bat to rise to the occasion. 2020 makes a mockery of that balance and stacks everything to credit the bat. Smaller boundaries, hampered field placement, and the urge to “measure the distance of the Sixes”.

Sure it is fun comparing Yuvrag’s 6 in six balls performance, to Gibb’s 6 in six balls during WC 2007 and, further back, to Sir Gary Sobers’ 6 in six balls in 1968. But do these batsmen qualify as genus Britannicus, to quote CLR James? Judging from the Test career of Sir Gary Sobers, of course. Will we get a similar chance to judge the young Yuvraj Singh? I have no idea. And I fear that we will not find out. I fear that the 2020 will splinter a team into a perfectly natural division of skill-sets, of specialist dharays like Shahid Afridi never having to grow beyond what they played in their backyards. How will someone like Shane Warne or Abdul Qadir or Imran Khan emerge out of this format? Nathan Bracken? Pfft. That, in a nutshell, is the reason I remain unenthusiastic about this format.


This October 6 election is a sham and a joke. So are these noble sentiments from Benazir Bhutto. I also would like to call your attention to William Dalrymple’s contrarian take in Democracy, not terror, is the engine of political Islam. He has some good points but he ignores that the reason _only_ the religious parties have been able to make a popular appeal is that every other possible democratic voice has been brutally silenced in the last 50 years by repressive, dictatorial regimes. The stats of Muslim Brotherhood and MMA in Egypt or Pakistan do not, then, reveal a populist appeal of militant Islam but the lack of any option EXCEPT the dictatorial one or the Islamist one: whether in Cairo or Karachi. The Mosque is the only place left for political mobilization – after the living room and the street have been taken away by the State. Furthermore, it is rather simplistic to call every religious party “Islamist”. Dalrymple, I know, knows better. There is, of course, a place and role for religious belief in political sphere. Mark Lilla can talk all he wants about the American exceptionalism but we are all watching the saga of the Mormon Mitt Romney or the lack of Democratic appeal to the Sunday Crowd. Simply because an observant Muslim wants to run for the Parliament does not mean that country will become “Teh Axis of Evil!”. And Hamas/Palestine is symptomatic of the rest of the Islamicate world … since when? Of course, I won’t badger the point by pointing out that the only so-called “existing democracy” in the Middle East – Israel – has never been accused of being “secular”.
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Porter on Decolonization

In the Aug 2, 2007 issue of LRB, Bernard Porter had a review essay, Trying to Make Decolonisation Look Good, covering Ronald Hyam’s Britain’s Declining Empire: The Road to Decolonisation, 1918-68, Peter Clarke’s The Last Thousand Days of the British Empire and Sir Christopher Bayly and Tim Harper’s Forgotten Wars: The End of Britain’s Asian Empire. The review is behind LRB’s subscription wall but dear friend J. sent me a pdf.

I highly recommend it – both for its broad historical summary of the political attitudes in Britain about ending the empire and for the very pointed critiques of historiography [including his own culpability]. In the interest of my fellow SAists, I am posting, at least the first third of the essay below the fold which deals more broadly with the subject of the end of the British Empire after WWII and his conclusion which is, of course, of particular interest to all of those witnessing the throes of the American empire in Iraq. The couple of footnotes are mine – with some small nitpicks.

Continue reading “Porter on Decolonization”

Sunday Reading for the Gods

The ICC World Twenty20 is currently underway in South Africa. It is exciting and exhilarating and droves of fans are watching this most amazing and necessary rejuvenating elixir pumped into the staid, old, decrepit body of Cricket. Or so they tell me. I really cannot be bothered. Apparently the India-Pakistan match ended in a tie which is resolved with a “bowl-out”. A bowl-out. India won the match “3-0”. ˈdəbəlˌyoō. tē. ef.

A lot of my cricket playing happened in the short-form [25 overs a side] and we never had a bowl-out. A bowl-out sounds like some type of TV-producer inspired madness – oh wait, the ICC rules clearly state that “the host television broadcaster shall be consulted as to which end of the ground the bowlers should bowl from”. Ye Gods. Bring on the cheerleaders.

  • At some point, I will like to read and review Lilla’s The Still-Born God. Until then, you can see what NYT’s Goldstein thinks of it. Judging from the excerpt, I am disinclined to take kindly to Lilla’s claim of exceptionalism – in regards to both the American experience of God and politics and the Islamic world in general.
  • Another review worth reading is Megan Marshall’s A Life Less Ordinary on Linda Colley’s The Ordeal of Elizabeth Marsh: A Woman in World History: “The Ordeal of Elizabeth Marsh” is a dazzling performance of historical scholarship that reveals just enough of what Colley describes in her acknowledgments as “the ordeal of tracking Elizabeth Marsh” to allow readers the sense that they too are on the trail of this compulsively itinerant woman.”
  • Ian Buruma, in the NYRB, reviews the papa neocon’s latest, “me, why would they listen to you?
  • Sanjay Subrahmanyam is in the LRB, reviewing a couple of recent books that look delightfully snark-worthy. I don’t know what he says, because I don’t have a subscription. If anyone does, do send me a pdf. And if you do, also send me the essay done by Bernard Porter a few weeks back in the LRB. Good deal? Also in LRB is Perry Anderson’s Depicting Europe – which you can, and should, read.
  • Any CM readers want to do a book club on David Leavitt’s The Indian Clerk? Maybe Bloomsbury USA can throw a couple of review copies our way? eh?
  • Chicago has played host to the annual ISNA (Islamic Society of North America) forever but I have never attended. But after reading Samaha’s accounts – I especially recommend Invasion of the ISNA Deaniacs – maybe, I should have gone this year.
  • And finally, Bill O’Reilly is making sense of it all.

The Prodigal Son

I quote W. G. Sebald from an old interview: “Going home is not necessarily a wonderful experience,” he says. “It always comes with a sense of loss, and makes you so conscious of the inexorable passage of time.” He adds: “If you’re based in two places, on a bad day you see only the disadvantages everywhere. On a bad day, returning to Germany brings back all kinds of spectres from the past.”

Nawaz Sharif has returned home.

Update: Zutt.