Monday, May 30, 2011

The Man who can do no Wrong……!!

To say that Mahendra Singh Dhoni is a thorough maverick would be a gross understatement. Over the last few years he has been labeled with varied euphemisms: Captain Cool, Man with the Midas touch, Captain Marvel and Ice-man being some of them...And to be truthful all of them do justice to his personality in some ways. Rarely have we seen any leader in any sport, leave alone cricket; have the kind of aura and achieve the kind of grand and glittering success MSD has achieved in his tenure as the team India captain. His fairy tale kind super-success story continues as he led his IPL team, the Chennai Super Kings, to their second successive title, thus making even his harshest of critics eat the humble pie. The number of trophies that he has now won probably makes him the greatest captain ever produced by India. But there are many who would choose not to agree. Infact after his World Cup triumph the debate has opened up across all forms of media on whether he is the best leader from our country and if he is indeed better than the rest... Dhoni however is unperturbed by all these debates, and nonchalantly keeps going about his business, i.e. leading his team to victories.

Dhoni burst into the international circles with his whirlwind century (148) against Pakistan at Vishakhapatnam in 2005. It wasn’t all smooth sailing for this budding right –handed batsman from Ranchi to the Indian team ; as he had to wait for many years before finally getting the nod, who idolized Australia’s legendary Adam Gilchrist and also inculcated some of his destructive traits inside him. He kept impressing the selectors and the fans alike with his swashbuckling style of play, his long locks, charming smile and many a memorable innings. However, 2007 was the year that changed it all, and in that also gave us one of the greatest leaders that the history of cricket has known.

The inaugural T20 World Cup in South Africa in 2007 was an event that not many took very seriously, including our cricketing bigwigs like Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly, who chose to opt out of the event. That meant the team had to have a new leader and Dhoni was selected for the role almost impromptu. Nobody knew what to expect of him... The rest as they say is history…

Leading India to an unexpected and emphatic title victory, Dhoni showed glimpses of a perfect leader in that short stint. He never looked back ever since, accomplishing almost everything that a captain of a country can perhaps only dream of. The 2008 VB series in Australia, beating New Zealand in New Zealand, beating Australia in India in two successive tours, winning the Asia Cup, leveling with South Africa in their own den, leading India to the number one rankings in Tests (and maintaining it for more than a year) and by no means to forget his IPL and Champions League success; are some of his outstanding achievements. The World Cup victory perhaps is the biggest icing on his cake and the fact that he was the Man of the Match in the finals with an unforgettable 91 not out adds to this glitter.

However, there still are many voices that aren’t exactly willing to agree on this ‘best captain’ theory. Critics have been vocal of many of his decisions like the backing of Ravindra Jadeja , or for instance his continuance with Piyush Chawla in the World Cup inspite of having the very talented R. Ashwin in the ranks. It is true that some of his moves have backfired, but what we forget is that he has been appointed the captain of the team for some reasons and he knows a thing or two more than the average cricket-follower who finds it easy to comment on each and every move of his.

He is an instinctive captain, and doesn’t think too much before going through with any of his decisions, and just banks on his gut feel. Some of them work, and work wonders, and some don’t., and the good thing about those is he accepts them and tries to learn from them, all hallmark of a great leader. He has the right to face flak as the captain of the national team but sometimes we just tend to overdo with the flak bit. That is the problem with India; everybody is a cricket- expert. And that perhaps makes Dhoni’s achievements even more worthwhile. The ability to stay calm , showing no trace of emotions under dire circumstances, the tendency to think out of the box and to plan the opposition’s downfall like a perfect engineer is what makes him extra special.

The criticisms don’t however just end there...There is a theory doing the rounds these days that Dhoni had a ‘set –team’ to begin with and he just reaping in the fruits of what his predecessor Ganguly labored to make for many years. Add to that the ‘lucky’ tag that he is forever embedded with. Neither of them stands true in their own right. Firstly on the ‘set-team’ bit every captain has a bunch of set players with him and goes on add new personnel to his armoury over the years, it’s his job as a captain. Ganguly did that and Dhoni has done the same. The likes of Suresh Raina, Virat Kohli and R.Ashwin have all found relentless support from their captain. Plus the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, who have played under almost six different captains, has quite vocally rated Dhoni as the best of the lot and also said that this is the ‘best dressing room’ he has been a part of... Even Yuvraj Singh, once known as Ganguly’s prodigy has ranked Dhoni as the best. It would infact be idiotic to compare Dhoni with anyone. Ganguly had his own abilities, he influxed lots of energy in the team and Dhoni has carried it over and taken the confidence of the team to an all together different level. The never-say die attitude, the hunger to win at all costs and high spiritedness shown by the current lot has never been seen on any other set of players ever.

To call him lucky would be undermining all his abilities...Yes luck plays a crucial factor, but as it’s said ‘fortune favours the brave’ and MSD is surely one of the bravest admirals around. It is often said that a captain is as good as his team, however Australian great Ian Chappell had made an interesting and contrasting observation once that a team too takes on the personality of its captain. That is exactly what has happened with team India; it has taken on the personality of Mahendra Singh Dhoni in every sense of the word, being fearless, unabashed, cool, calm and collected, and that is why they are performing as a well-oiled unit.

Over the years lots has changed with Dhoni, his long locks are gone, so too is his boyish demanour and his swashbuckling style of play. He has matured as a batsman and a wicket-keeper. Playing endless cricket for the past eighteen months and probably deserving rest more than anyone else, he at present is undoubtedly the most important Indian player after Sachin Tendulkar in the country. As years would pass, much literature would be used to analyze the saga of MSD, and hopefully he would continue to add feathers in his now overlarge cap. His fan-following too keeps growing at break-neck speed. Despite having every move of his under scrutiny, and the burdening pressure of millions to succeed every time, Dhoni has managed to win hearts with his simplistic and effective approach and uncomplicated way of looking at things. It does help that whatever he touches just turns to gold, what with all his smart decisions and endless victories. His batting too clicked when it mattered the most, right in the finals. It wasn’t surprising then when many suggested after the World Cup triumph to let Dhoni handle the affairs of the Govt. as well. He has had that kind of an impact.

One might say that he has achieved everything that is left to achieve, but knowing Dhoni he must have lots planned up his sleeve already. Like setting up the bench strength to fill the void once Sachin, Dravid and Laxman leave. More importantly, to maintain the number one status in Tests and One-dayers alike, that would be the prime motive now. To try and achieve the level of consistency champion teams like Australia have had. Whatever happens, no one can take away what Dhoni has already done. He is truly a champion if ever there was one. Of all his various tags there should perhaps now be a new one added to it; “The Bradman of Captaincy” which would suit him the best at the moment.

There was one thing common in all the main photo-ops of the World T20 and the 2011 World Cup victories, the captain, was hard to spot in those...Quietly mingling in the background he would let the younger lot and the older ones take the centre –stage and revel in their moment of glory, while he would just stand and smile his charming smile without going overboard even once…Most captains would have done the exact opposite…Most captains…Therein lies the difference…!!!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Coz I will always be your ‘Shravan Kumar’….

(After all those heavy articles , I write this personal post..It is for myself and a few close people and not intended for any other purposes, I shall resume my 'normal ' writing from next week itself)

"Things we lose, have a way of coming back to us in the end.....
If not always in the way we expect !!! "

Last night at around 11.30 pm, I was busy relishing eating my favorite ice-cream..I did not have anything else in mind... However, as I prepared myself to sleep I checked the time in my cell phone and I then registered the date…21st May 2011…!! My brain suddenly froze..It was exactly five years ago that my mom had left me for the heavens..Five years...It’s a very long time…My first feeling was of disbelief...Is it that long??? Five years…It felt very strange, to register this fact…That she’s so far away from me now!!! Did I feel sad?? Not at that time no…I just felt empty, kind of dizzy…My father was sleeping beside me, I just looked at his face, so tired, so simple…I just held on to him for a few minutes, he didn’t know it, but I just felt a little calmed down.. Life is so strange, five years back I remember riding silently in the ambulance taking my mom, holding on to my father and holding hands with my brother looking down at my mum covered in numerous instruments, going into coma, the wailing siren killing me with each tone, scenes that keep coming back to haunt me; thinking everything is gone...Everything is finished...And here I was licking my ice –cream like a 12 yr old…Should I be ashamed?? Should I feel guilty?? The true answer would be No...But today I have this heavy load in my chest, and I want to get it off...The only way is by talking to you, and so I write this to you, which you will never read but it would help me feel a little more… peaceful!!!

Dear Maa,
I know you can’t read this, but I would still write it in anycase..That is the only way I am good at expressing my feelings honestly...Through words...

I am good and fine..You wouldn’t believe it, but I am actually going into journalism..You always were worried about me know??, see now I would probably do something good...Maybe I won’t be a very rich man, but I would still be happy, as this was what I always wanted to do..

Bhaiya is doing fine too...Sometimes he gets very tensed about his work...Remember that why I had prayed to you last time...It worked, like always...I am happy for him, he’s got a good partner now... As for Papa, he’s not changed much, still very much the same, simple, quiet and untidy..haha..

I didn’t even realize when these five years went by. .It seemed just yesterday when we used to be watching those comedy serials, me pulling your cheeks, eating your delicious food . All gone… When you went away, I thought life will never be the same again, that I would now change, and be serious and all that..But somehow that never happened..I still am the same as I was, maybe lots more emotional and a little mature, .But that’s it…The core is the same as you had made it.. You know the very next day that you had left us, I had come back to normal, taking care of the kids and guests, chatting having fun..Time passed by, I got into my studies and friends etc. .I don’t remember you everyday...No...But sometimes you just keep cropping in my mind out of the blue..Like when I am eating some sweets or ice-cream or mangoes, I know how much you loved them…And sometimes your words, your face , your smile just automatically comes in my mind when I am not feeling good or lonely…..I will always remember you Maa..No matter what…Remember when you had told me once that after I go away, you will cry for a few days and then forget everything..Thats not true Maa, and you know it…I always talk to you, pray to you..Inside me.

I just wish..That I could show you today..Good things that I have done..My writings, my documentaries , my prizes..No one at home really cares for them, I don’t blame them..But I knw you would have..You always did..Always..

I wish I could show you how handsome and healthy I have become too..Haha…You were always worried know..Dont be now..I have many friends who keep me alive and happy..I have got a couple of very very close friends too..You would have loved meeting them..Especially this cute would have loved her..She reminds me so much of you. The same innocent face, cute smile, chubby cheeks and endless dumbness..haha…And I keep pulling her cheeks too, just like yours.. These two Maa , have played a major part in my life after you went away and are like family now... Made me forget everything and realize life is about being normal and simple…I always tell them that it was some force that made us meet like that, or we wouldn’t have been this close.. I guess that force was you..Taking care of me, even while you aren’t here..

Anyways, I know you must be happy for me..But I wish I could see your face, that smile..Just once…Whenever I got these awards and all, you were the first one that came to my mind; it pained my heart a lot. I remember getting the award for the ‘best speaker’ few years back, and I didn’t have anyone to share my happiness with...I was going back in the auto, wiping my tears.. I am not ashamed in saying that I cry,. Whenever I am alone and I think about you..I do…But that’s normal..I feel so alone at those times….If only you were here...Things would have been so different…

Life will move on...So will I...But some things will always remain the same...I will always miss your delicious food...I will miss cuddling up to you, pampering you...Sleeping in your lap, forgetting my troubles..Your gentle kiss on my forehead... Your hands running through my hair, making me feel divine. I will miss all those pranks I used to play on you, you telling me stories of your childhood, listening to music together, watching T.V. together…Eating those mangoes and ice-cream together….I will miss hugging you,.Feeling your gentle heart..Seeing you pray, so purely…I will never forget your last kiss on my cheeks that day at the hospital, your lips had burnt, but it still felt the same..I will miss you Maa..

I wish you hadn’t been taken away from me like this...It still haunts me...Seeing you surrounded by all those equipments, struggling for each breath..That wasn't justice..You always told me to believe in ‘god’..Till your last day in the hospital... I wont ever be able to forget that..Your trust was broken…, and so was mine..I will never forgive..

But you don’t worry about anything now Maa, I will take care of Papa too..I wont let him be alone, I promise..I will try and be an honest human being like you..And will always pray to you too..Always..Thanks for guiding me even now, and listening to my prayers..I feel you many times..Inside me…

I don’t know where you are, I just hope that wherever it is, it’s better than the life we could provide you with. ..I am Sorry Maa, I couldn’t give you any real happiness while you were here… But I will try and be a loyal son…Like you used to say, your ‘shravan kumar’..People tell me that you were proud of me..I don’t know about that…All I know is that my love will never diminish for you..You are my greatest source of inspiration,. For living..I have to prove a lot yet..I will…Just wish you were here to see it…So that i could touch your feet just one more time, feel your soft hands on my hair , one more time...See the twinkle in your eyes,..Just one more time...See that smile that made my world...Just One more Time...........

Where did you go away Maa,.?? Where did you??

Love you always…
Your ‘Shravan Kumar’…Chiku…

Monday, May 16, 2011

Time for some positive ‘change’

Three decades is a really long time indeed for any political party to cling on to power, any further and it wouldn’t be far-fetched to call it an autocracy. However, that wasn’t to be, as the ruling Left Front Government was booted out of power in West Bengal almost single – handedly by the resurgent Mamata Banerjee‘s Trinamool Congress.. That the CPI (M) managed to garner a measly amount of just about 40 seats in comparison to Trinamool’s 184 demonstrates the level of frustration the people of Bengal had against the Left Front’s rule (or the lack of it). The fact that they got a lower number of seats than the third party in the fray, the Congress, must have dashed their high level of arrogance to pieces. It is time for the Left Front to do some thorough soul-searching and serious introspection and not try and play the usual blame game. Their ideologies have long lost flavour with the locals, what with all those tall promises and neglecting all of them in the end, and if they do not alter their ways and means it could lead to a very long stay in the opposition’s chair for them.

For the TMC though the work has just begun. They have a massive task on their hands to cleanse the stained image of Bengal in the nation’s eyes, for which the Trinamool supremo herself is responsible too in some ways. Firstly, and most importantly industrialization has to be brought back at any cost. It seems strange, but it was precisely because of the Left Front’s want of trying to bring industries back in Bengal which actually cost them dear in the name of Singur and Nandigram and it was exactly on these issues that Ms. Banerjee rode to dethrone the Left (mis) rule. However, it was mainly to do with the way the Left handled the issue. It would be interesting now, to see how Ms. Banerjee manages to woo the industries back, which she once drove away, to Bengal. It would be essential she does that to boost the sagging industrial sectors and to provide jobs to innumerable youths who are leaving the state for other greener pastures.

The other areas that need to be seriously worked on are the health, education and transport systems which are at an all time low. The condition of the health industry is anything but appalling. According to a survey the number of hospital beds per one lakh people in rural Bengal is 3.8 compared to an all-India average of 17.5. In education, the dropout rate of students is over 75 % in comparison to an all-India average of 60%. But the primary cause of worry is that the whole education system has been taken over by party goons, which ultimately leads to campus infighting, and thus student deaths are regular in this mad rush for power. In the health services too, the status of the govt. run hospitals is shambolic to say the least, where they don’t have even have the basic equipments for treatment , no proper power facilities and patients in dire need are turned away from the doorsteps repeatedly. The transport department is another one which is being run over by party hoodlums, and thus we see arrogant auto-drivers, backed by their political bosses, frequently roughing up passengers, the buses refusing to follow any sort of decorum leading to endless accidents , and the less said about the condition of the roads the better. The state is currently under financial bankruptcy courtesy some inept mismanagement by a certain Asim Dasgupta. One could really go on, but the fact of the matter is Ms. Banerjee and her group has their hands more than full, and it would take nothing short of some miracle to bring Bengal back on track.

To her credit, she has accumulated a highly able group of people around her, ranging from former chief secretary Manish Gupta (who handed Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee his biggest defeat in his own den in Jadavpur) and quizmaster Derek O’ Brein. It remains to be seen how effectively Ms. Banerjee utilizes their resources to reign in a new Bengal. Her election manifesto, though very well made and impressive, would do well to stick to basics. Even if she does not manage to make Kolkata into London, as has been promised, anything closer to that wouldn’t be too bad either. The next 1000 days might very well give us an answer as to whether Bengal is moving in the right direction or sliding further downhill.

The deciding factor would clearly be Mamata Banerjee’s leadership. Whether she manages to shed off her image of a street fighter and become an able administrator would now decide Bengal’s future. She rode the slogan of ‘change’ to storm into power. A change of regime has now happened, but the real change would be first to change the mindset of the people here, more than the other literal changes, who have now made themselves comfortable with the ‘bandh’ cuture and the ‘chalta hai’ attitude, for which Ms. Banerjee herself can take a fair share of the blame along with the Left.

To say the Left has lost its touch with the common-man would be putting it mildly. Their high –headedness and arrogant behaviour even in the run up to the elections has put them in the situation they are currently in. It would be interesting to see whether they accept their mistakes and try and resurrect them. Ms. Banerjee should now be vary of them behaving the same way she had in her stint in the opposition. However, all said and done, it is time to give some credit and support to Ms.Banerjee, for single –handedly eliminating the Left and bringing a new wave of hope amongst the people. She would do well to learn a lot from leaders such as Narendra Modi of Gujarat, Nitish Kumar of Bihar and closer home from Tarun Gogoi of Assam, who have done wonders to their respective states by following the single-minded agenda of development and not giving in to populist measures which Ms. Banerjee is well-known for.

It is said that “Change for the sake of change should never be encouraged”... Only time would tell whether this phrase stands true or is proven wrong here. But it is beyond doubt that it is time for some ‘positive’ change here. Bengal has had enough of negative publicity in the past few years; courtesy bandhs, blockades blatant political animosity and other grave news. It is time the leaders in power change that image for the better. The greatest change though, could perhaps be the day when the political parties here stop treating each other as enemies, and try and move beyond refusing to see eye to eye; the day that changes that would perhaps be the real ‘poriborton’…