February 16, 2010

Awesome Indian batting.

Ian Chappell may or may not be right in suggesting that India can't be a long term Number One in tests because they lack quality bowling. Time will settle that. What is beyond dispute is the amazing Indian batting.

In the last 10 years India played 105 tests winning 42, losing 27 and drawing the rest. This is a win/loss ratio of 1.55. For the last 5 years these numbers (55, 22, 11, 2) are even more impressive. For comparison, in their entire history India played 437 tests winning 103 and losing 137. The win/loss ratio is 0.75. No one can deny that batting is the force behind this transformation.It is true that bowling was also crucial because we need 20 wickets to win. However, the win/loss ratio could be improved simply by losing less (even if winning at the same rate). Indeed, while the winning rate (compared to history) improved significantly in the last 10 years, it did not change in the last 5 years (in both the 10 year and 5 year period, it is exactly 0.4). So the improvement in the win/loss ratio from 1.55 to 2 was solely because India lost less.

Batting is the reason for this reduction in the number of losses. Big scores in wins loom large in memory. The batting in the current test again South Africa was beautiful and solid. Similarly in all the wins in the last few years in all countries, batting was awesome.

But a major aspect of Indian test performances lately has been the dogged batting when needed to save test matches.

Ahmedabad last year against Sri Lanka, or Napier, or Bangalore (against Aus, 2008), or Lord's 2007, or St Kitts in 2006 -- in all these cases India needed to bat close to a day or more in the 4th innings to avoid defeat. A few years ago the outcome usually was all too painful and predictable: India would collapse under the pressure and fail to survive. But in the past 4 years or so, there is a clear and pleasing pattern of resistance and determined batting for close to 100 overs (or more) to survive test matches.

This is surely one of the crucial reasons for our Number One position.

November 5, 2009

"Speaking" mother tongue from day 1.

According to this research.

October 13, 2009

A book a day.

This is amazing.

Reading books has always been a passion with me. But it is also a constant challenge because I am barely keeping up with the books I want to read at any given time. Right now I am in the middle of one book and would dearly love to finish it and get to at least 3 or 4 more books (this, this, and this). And this list keeps growing too.

So it is quite appealing to see that this person has read one book every day for nearly a year. She also reviews each one of them. And thanks to her, I added a new book to my list of to-be-read-as-soon-as-possible books.

June 16, 2009


It was sickening to see the mania created by media and other vested interests before the current World T20 tournament started. Wherever you go, you were likely to see signs of this mania with people wishing good luck to the players and praying that India brings the cup back home. It was there on TV channels (not just on sports channels) and it was there on bill boards.

Now it is equally sickening to see the reaction to the loss. I made this point here before, and it bears repeating. The India cricket team does not represent the people of India. If they fail to do well, there is no justification in feeling that they wronged the people of India. Moreover, we seem to forget the almost self-evident point that victory or defeat in sports is a function of various factors and to draw a line straight from defeat to incompetence/internal rifts/lack of motivation is quite uncalled for. What is needed is a measured reaction, which seems frankly in short supply. It is very disheartening that reactions like this are no longer on the fringes, though that particular form of expression may be still rare.

November 20, 2008

Effect of large monetary reward.

This is a very interesting experiment. Though, it seems counter-intuitive, it does make sense to me.

Dan Ariely
does intriguing research. His book has been on my list of must-reads for the last few months. May be I should get to it now.

He and three collaborators went to India and asked 87 people to do various tasks requiring memory, concentration, attention and creativity. They divided the 87 people and offered different monetary incentives to the three groups for the same tasks. First group got 50 cents, the second $5 and the third $50.

In real terms, these sums are much larger in India than they seem.

Their conclusions:
The people offered medium bonuses performed no better, or worse, than those offered low bonuses. But what was most interesting was that the group offered the biggest bonus did worse than the other two groups across all the tasks.

They reached similar conclusions in experiments conducted in Boston and Chicago too. For any task that requires some level of mental skill as opposed to mere mechanical effort, their research shows that large monetary reward may not have the clear motivational advantage that is usually imagined.

November 12, 2008

Bail me out!

As the complex and twisted debate (see this, this and this, for a sample) on whether to bail out large companies in general, and General Motors in particular rages on, here is something amusing.
Before you throw this letter into the proverbial round file, let’s be clear: this is the first time I have ever asked for a bailout from the Federal Reserve. I know what you’re thinking. Why do I deserve your largesse, and I do mean largesse, since I’m asking for five million big ones? The answer is simple. Like many of our nation’s financial institutions, I am simply too big to fail. If investors were allowed to witness the collapse of Freddie, Fannie, and then Andy, I can’t begin to describe what havoc it would wreak on their already frayed nerves. Actually, I can describe it: global financial calamity. I think we can both agree that, to dodge this bullet, ten million dollars is a small price to pay. (I know that I originally asked for five, but since I started writing this letter my financial situation has deteriorated in grave and unexpected ways.)

November 5, 2008

232 years later.

232 years ago, a country that held "all men are created equal" was self-evident.

Till 143 years ago, a country of "slave-warehouses":

A slave-warehouse in New Orleans is a house externally not much unlike many others, kept with neatness; and where every day you may see arranged, under a sort of shed along the outside, rows of men and women, who stand there as a sign of the property sold within. Then you shall be courteously entreated to call and examine, and shall find an abundance of husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, and young children, to be "sold separately, or in lots to suit the convenience of the purchaser;" and that soul immortal, once bought with blood and anguish by the Son of God, when the earth shook, and the rocks rent, and the graves were opened, can be sold, leased, mortgaged, exchanged for groceries or dry goods, to suit the phases of trade, or the fancy of the purchaser.

A 100 years ago, country of lynchings.

Till a half century ago, a country of Jim Crow and segregation.

In a little over 2 months from now, a country with a negro president.

This last does not erase or excuse what preceded it. Far from it.

What it does is give meaning to the American national commitment to perfect their union. It proves, in the words of the man himself, that "a government of the people, by the people and for the people has not perished from this Earth".

October 2, 2008

McCain is pissed.

He does not look at Obama once in the debate. He looks distant as Obama approaches him in the Senate. He gets testy with the editorial board of Des Moines Register.

I have a theory. McCain is shocked that his poll numbers are falling, and he is getting very angry. I think he believes that his campaign suspension last week should have been popular. I think he really believes that people should simply accept that Palin is a maverick and love her. In the absence of these phenomenon, McCain is losing it.

This video is another case in point. He seems completely insane there. I don't even know what he is saying. They were talking about his vote for the bailout plan. Then out of nowhere, he mentions he is proud of suspending his campaign. He knows that a majority of American people thought the suspension was stupid. But he can not accept it.

The latest news is not good for him.

September 26, 2008

Country First!

Words fail:

Not for Hendrik Hertzberg though. As usual, he hits the nail on the head.

In the “Putin rears his head” answer, jagged shards of the hasty briefings lately stuffed into Palin’s pretty head clang tinnily against one another. “We send those”—those? those what?—”out to make sure that an eye is being kept on this powerful nation, Russia.” Those what? We send what? My hunch is that this alarming jumble must have something to do with the path that Russian intercontinental missiles would take on their way to the lower Forty-eight and/or the air-defense installations that NORAD maintains in the state Palin is executive of. But who knows? The whole thing reads like something rendered from the Finnish by Google Translate.

For a seventy-two-year-old cancer survivor to have placed this person directly behind himself in line for the Presidency was an act of almost incomprehensible cynicism and irresponsibility. It makes a cruel—what’s the word?—mockery of his slogan. “Country First” indeed.

September 10, 2008

The myth of John McCain.

I have personally believed, and heard many rational people assert, that John McCain is an independent man. That he is saner than the crowd that controls the White House now. That he is better than the various others who vied with him for the Republican nomination.

I do not believe this any more.

It may be argued that under pressures of campaigning, politicians occasionally do ill-advised things. But McCain displays a pattern of behavior which goes well behind this dubious, but necessarily limited, moral blank check.

From the moment he allowed his campaign to portray Obama as a an empty celebrity, when he questioned Obama's patriotism, when he picked Palin, and today when he sits idly as the Republicans create a "phony outrage" over Obama's comments, McCain is proving himself to be anything but independent. His campaign is being controlled by the same tactics and methods that, ironically, defeated him in 2000. There is little expectation that a possible McCain administration will be any different.

Andrew Sullivan captures these thoughts admirably.
And when he had the chance to engage in a real and substantive debate against the most talented politician of the next generation in a fall campaign where vital issues are at stake, what did McCain do? He began his general campaign with a series of grotesque, trivial and absurd MTV-style attacks on Obama's virtues and implied disgusting things about his opponent's patriotism.

And then, because he could see he was going to lose, ten days ago, he threw caution to the wind and with no vetting whatsoever, picked a woman who, by her decision to endure her own eight-month pregnancy of a Down Syndrome child in public, that he was going to reignite the culture war as a last stand against Obama. That's all that is happening right now: a massive bump in the enthusiasm of the Christianist base. This is pure Rove.

Yes, McCain made a decision that revealed many appalling things about him. In the end, his final concern is not national security. No one who cares about national security would pick as vice-president someone who knows nothing about it as his replacement. No one who cares about this country's safety would gamble the security of the world on a total unknown because she polled well with the Christianist base. No person who truly believed that the surge was integral to this country's national security would pick as his veep candidate a woman who, so far as we can tell anything, opposed it at the time.

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