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.

I.

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.

II

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”.

III.

The NYT opened up its archives. Did you hear? For us historians, it is an amazing tool. Here, for example, is an early analysis of 1857 [fearing the Mohammadans], an early description of Gandhi, an articulation of the American Empire and a critique, the threat of Islam … from Moor to Negro [which seemed a pandemic threat], Orientalism, and something about Harlem’s Hitler from 1935 that I am really curious about. Finally, I have really enjoyed this essay on Jesse James, so I found his original death notice.
IV.

Rarely do we see the work of Empire and Information as succinctly and clearly as in this discussion between Gen. Douglas M. Stone and Bloggers. I really, really recommend historians give this one a close read.

The fact that there still exist official titles in sub-continental bureaucracy as Tehsildar, Kanungo and Patwari makes me very, very happy. I want to be a Patwari.

Annemarie Schimmel on YouTube

V.

I am off, now, to watch The National at the Vic. Let us all hope that tonight is better than the last time I enjoyed a bday concert.

Author: sepoy

what is the vertiginous chapati saying to me?

12 thoughts on “Yeh Din”

  1. Sharon has pretty much summed up my arguments.

    The real dangers lie in the cricketing authorities abuse of the game; seeing only dollar signs they will arrange tournament after tournament (all aimed at the Indian market — the only mass market for cricket). This will ruin the game.

    The only other danger is if cricketers start seeing 20/20 as the “only” version worth playing. I don’t think that will happen as being known as a mere slogger/clobber of the ball doesn’t appear to get a professional cricketer the respect of his peers.

  2. Well, OK, I’ll bite. I think looking at the run rates per over on their own is misleading. Batsmen score faster because they can take more risks, because there are only 20 overs and so each individual wicket is less precious than in the longer forms. But here’s the flip side: batsmen *have* to take risks because they *have* to score, and so bowlers with control and cunning, backed up by a tight fielding unit, have opportunities to get them out. Umar Gul’s figures for the tournament are 13 wickets at 11.92, RP Singh had 12 at 12.66. (Yesterday they took 3 for 28 and 3 for 26 respectively.) Bowlers make the difference. It’s no accident that the best bowling averages are packed with Pakistan and India players while those two countries are considerably less prominent in the best batting averages – the best Indian batsman is Gambhir somewhere about number 17. Chris Gayle thumped 10 sixes in the first match of the tournament and was still on the losing side, because WI’s bowling and fielding were shite (again).

    It’s all about skill, quick thinking and holding one’s nerve under pressure, on both sides. Every ball counts and every mistake counts. Bowlers can’t let being hit for six get to them, while batsmen have to continually find the balance between taking risks and falling behind the target, and they have to do it right from the first ball they face.

    We were on tenterhooks because nobody knew what was going to happen next. One over India were on top, then it was Pakistan, then it swung back again. Right down to the last over. Unpredictable as all the best cricket is unpredictable, but boiled down to a concentrated three-hour essence. Which should not be consumed in excess. Sadly, I’m pretty sure that the cricket money making machine will milk this format for all it’s worth, and suck all the life and fun out of it all too soon. It’s a short intense game that should be played in short concentrated bursts like this tournament, not too often, to leave us wanting more, but that isn’t what will happen is it? So I’m making the most of it right now, because the last two weeks have been amazing.

    (Apart from the bits that involved the England team, obviously. Let’s not go there.)

  3. Seriously? The fact that it was a final and everyone was on tenterhooks yet both teams still managed to put up almost 8/over run rate scores notwithstanding? Average 8/over! For 20 Overs! Bowler’s game, hardly.

    I haven’t seen the final so I can’t say but, still, I remain skeptical.

  4. Sepoy, I have to say that the Twenty20 final yesterday did show that bowlers can dominate in this format too. Umar Gul and RP Singh were amazing.

  5. I think the final disproved the idea that bowlers have no sya in Twenty20.

    The big problem with Twenty20 will be its mismanagement by the authorities.

  6. Sepoy and others, any thoughts on the bizarre circus unfolding today with Ahmedinejad at Columbia? I am not sure what the purpose of this whole “invitation” was.

  7. Agree completely about Twenty20, Lilla and Dalrymple. But I’d argue that it isn’t just the repression of all alternatives that has led to the success of political Islam – just as the Christian Right, or milder forms of religious mobilization have managed to stay influential in America even with other options available (as Hindutva has in India), Islam is well entrenched in the political discourse of Egypt (and I imagine, Pakistan, though IIRC the JI never got more than 10% before Zia came along? )at both elite and oppositional levels, and religion is an effective mobilizer just as ethnic identity is. Dalrymple makes it sound ominous and exceptional, when it’s really just a rather run of the mill phenomenon that happens to be taking place in a part of the world where political discontent runs high.

Comments are closed.