Ranji Superball : What if India had a SuperBowl

As the spectacle of the 41st Superbowl unfolds with Peyt Manning leading the Colts towards a well contested win, miles away and hours ahead, Wasim Jaffer should be waking up to see if he can repeat his first innings century to seal Mumbai’s hegemony in the Ranji Super League Final. I can’t help wonder what would happen to Indian Cricket if Ranji Finals in India were as big as the Superbowl in USA.

A lot has been written and said about how BCCI needs to beef up its domestic cricket circuit, attract more talent, more discipline demanding professional players to play the Ranji League and more commercial support to finally produce a commendable bench of players as the Aussies have. I am not going to comment on any of that as I agree with most of it, only with the addition that it’s a chicken & egg story starting with whether the average Indian cricket fan follows domestic cricket enough. For today, I’d keep all those contentions aside and imagine that Ranji Finals were really like the Superbowl to India.

So, imagine my friends :

Right now is the sweltering heat of early June, with temperatures soaring to 45+ Deg Cel making it near impossible for you to do anything productive with your time on a Sunday evening except watch the Mumbai Dons battle the Bengal Tigers in a Twenty20 format final for the RANJI SUPERBALL I at the picturesqe and relatively cooler surroundings of the Milkfood Punjab Jatts Stadium at Mohali. Also, you would have sat together with your friends/family for a good 4 hours before the game starts, waiting not only for the real play time which would be much shorter cumulatively than the ad time on the broadcast, but also to watch the spectacle of new and awe-inspiring ad campaigns to be launched. Yes, of course, the specials from Kake da Dhaba’s Ranji Superball Menu are as delicious as the pre-event deal that you got for Mumbai Dons’ Superball 2008 Winner Team Gear at www.nike.co.in.

You don’t find yourself as surprised at the UP-born-and-bred Mohd Kaif’s captaincy of Bengal Tigers as you are disconcerted and disgusted by the needless hype created by the politcally correct media and commentators on the “Celebrating Minorities in Indian Cricket” about Jaffer and Kaif leading the competing sides. (At the back of your mind, you yearn for those good-ol’days, when Cricket was cricket and not an arena for affrimtive action champions, when Kaif-&-Yuvraj’s unbeaten stand in the Natwest Final was all about cricket and none about bleeding-heart Ram-Rahim stories)

The not-so-cricket inclined in your house do not complain so much as they do not mind the opportunity to see Abhishek and Aishwarya perform together for the first time in a public arena, during the half-time. The artistically and patriotically interested have been surely suitably impressed by the redoubtable Pandit Jasraj rendering the National Anthem to open the ceremony. Not to forget, the mouth-watering prospect of seeing the trio of Rakhi-Kangana-Deepal perform at the field during every drinks break.

Regardless of the outcome (Ofcourse, Mumbai Dons, with Sachin, Jaffer and newly acquired Zaheer, would win) and the real prospect of this fantasy coming true, those who follow Indian Cricket and American football, even superficially, would easily sight the following :

  • Some of the glamor and commercialisation of Indian Cricket as fantasized here is already happening – most visible during the frenzy that picks up in advance of any major International Cricket Tournament.
  • More Importanly : if this fantasy were to strictly come true, Cricket would be played only in India, nowhere else – even Pakistan plays a modified version ! What this means, in turn, is the following :
    1. No Ashes contest between Australia and England : This could be the best news the English have had in cricket since their Ashes win 2 years ago.
    2. No India-Pakistan matches : That’s it ! That’s the single biggest reason why this fantasy should never come true !

(Anybody offering discounted packages for a possible Super Eight Match between India-Pak dirung the World Cup 2007 ?)

Sidney Sheldon : an Indian’s Tribute

Sidney Sheldon died earlier this week after a well lived life of 90 years. I am not an expert on his literary works nor his life but I can say that his work had an endearing influence in the early-life of most English-speaking Indians of my generation. And that almost-life-changing contribution is the introduction to pulp-fiction and American Pop Culture.

Along with Harold Robbins, he was the author reading whose books marked an Indian teenager’s entry into adulthood. These were books that your elder siblings would keep from you for their adult content. But really, even besides the erotic graphic mentions of “facts of life”, these pulp fiction works were also a teenager’s first introductions to real human emotions – love, hate, envy, greed, anger, revenge and ofcourse, lust.  His work provided a sudden and a pleasurable evolution from Hardy Boys’ and Nancy Drew’s sterile world, where crime and violence did exist but not real men, and never real (or pleasantly unreal) women.

Sidney (and Harold) also offered a peep into (what-seemed-then) the Real America of the upper class. We do know better now, but in those days of only Doordarshan and an occasional Oscar-winning movie, the perspective offered by his novels into the American way of life was like an authoritative documentary to the multitude of information starved, pre-internet, pre-Discovery teenagers.  The depth of this insight resounded with me recently when a friend on a call from India spoke knowledgably about the different American Time Zones since he had read about them in a Sheldon novel, years ago.

I don’t know if, in the years to come, Sidney will be as widely read in India as more teenagers spend their time on Xboxes and Youtube ; and they surely don’t need him to graduate into adulthood from whatever they read-and-do in pre-teens these days. What we do surely know that for many of us, he will remain the first and foremost name in pulp fiction. Also, our view of the American life would always be tethered or compared against the wonderful picture of freedom, civil liberties, entrepreneurship, greed and lust that Sidney painted.

(As an aside, though on a similar note, I do think that Harold Robbins is perhaps the best recorder of popular history of the Great Depression and the resurgence of capitalism that followed.)

Look who’s back at Dell!

Michael Dell is back at the helm of his namesake company. A few years back, when Apple Inc. was in the doldrums, someone had asked Mr. Dell, basking in the glory of his low cost, low price, no innovation formula on what should be done to fix Apple. Mr. Dell replied, “Apple should be sold and money returned to the shareholders”.

Of course, Steve Jobs brought back Apple from the brink of disaster solely on the basis of innovation, the one single quality missing from Mr. Dell’s company. Rumor has it that on the day Apple’s total market value exceeded Dell’s recently, Mr. Jobs sent an email to his entire company congratulating them on their success. If he did, it won’t be totally out of character with Mr. Jobs flashy personality.
Dell’s woes also have an Indian connection. One of the primary reasons behind people’s dissatisfaction with Dell has been its after-sales service and Dell has a huge chunk of its customer support based in India. Anyone who has tried to contact their customer service will readily admit that they are one of the worst. Obviously, it is not India’s fault that Dell’s customer service sucks. If you won’t spend to hire good workers, won’t train them and treat customer service as a necessary evil, then your service will suck whether it is based in the US, India or Mars.

Dell is not the only low-cost, low-price mass marketer in trouble these days. Indeed, the king of that model, Walmart is also suffering from stagnant and declining sales while its slightly more upscale competitor, Target, is raking it in. Walmart has been forced to innovate in order to attract customers looking for more than just tissue paper rolls and dishwasher detergent. Let us see if Mr. Dell can bring some fresh ideas and innovation to his boring and staid company in order to attract customers looking for more than $300 desktops and $500 laptops.

Where is ACLU when you need them?

So if you are flying to Minneapolis, Minnesota – that beautiful city with that greatest monument to the American consumerism, the Mall of America and would be taking a cab from the airport and you are carrying wine with you then my advice to you is don’t! That is, either don’t fly to Minneapolis, or don’t take a cab or don’t carry wine or any other alcoholic drinks with you.

Why?

Because the Muslim cabbies serving the airport, and they form 33% of the cabbies there, will refuse you a ride if you are carrying alcohol. Now, where’s the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union ) when you really need them?

From a CNN story:

“This is America, we have freedom of religion,” says one cabbie. We could see their feelings are intense — that the issue seems to cut to the core of their identity.

“The Metropolitan Airport Commission is discriminating against us Muslim drivers,” says Abdulkaddir Adan, a Somalian-American who’s been driving a cab in the Twin Cities for two years.

Sure dude, this is America and that is why no one’s forcing you to be a cabbie. Go get yourself some other job rather than pushing your religion values on me. If every religion starts pushing its values on others, then there’d be no end to it. Going by the same rationale, why should devout pro-life Catholic pharmacists be punished when they refuse to fill prescriptions for birth control pills?

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