October 31, 2005

Ganguly's Omission - An Objective View.

These past few days I have been looking into statistics of recent Indian performances to assess Ganguly's omission from the Indian team from an objective stand point.

Ganguly - as a player.

I looked at the record of the main Indian batsmen since the end of the World Cup 2003. The following is a list of the number of matches played and the average.

Yuvraj (60 matches and 31.70),
Sehwag (64 matches and 29.49),
Ganguly (50 matches and 30.50),
Kaif (40 matches and 40.51),
Tendulkar (38 matches and 45.60),
Dravid (62 matches and 41.33).

As is evident, despite the much publicized euphoria over Tendulkar's decline he is maintaining an impeccable average. Dravid and Kaif are doing particularly well too. Averages of Yuvraj, Sehwag and Ganguly are not that impressive.

The strike rates play an important role in ODIs and that is where Ganguly is definitely under-performing. Sehwag has a strike rate of 95 and Yuvraj of 85. Ganguly has only about 73 and this over a period of two years with an average of 30 is not impressive.

Sehwag is a very valuable player to the team for his fast starts to the innings. Though he is scoring only 30, he is scoring them at the top of the innings and very fast. So those 30 runs are very valuable for the team. As for Yuvraj, he had been dropped before and mostly he made his way back to the team. Most recently he has been dropped against Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka and came back very strongly scoring centuries in the same tournament and again in Zimbabwe after that. Ganguly has been performing below par continuously for a while now.

So there is no question that Ganguly's batting performance (or lack of it) made a valid case for his omission.

Ganguly - as captain

One can also argue that the team was performing very poorly (in ODIs) after March 2003 and as captain he can partly be held responsible for that. In any case, the strongest plus point for Ganguly, namely his aggressive and successful captaincy, no longer remains valid.

India have played 60 ODIs since world cup final and prior to the current series against Sri Lanka. We won 27 and lost 30 (3 no results). While this does not seem particularly poor, a closer look tells us that most of the victories did not amount to much in the context of a series or a tournament.

We played 13 series, counting all series (2 teams) and tournaments (3 or more). We lost all the tournaments, though we reached finals of many (in most cases, the third team being more or less a walk-over). We won only two series (against Pak in Pak and against Bangladesh in Bangladesh). In fact, that Pakistan series in Pakistan was the single memorable series for us since the world cup.

So a persuasive case can be made for Ganguly's omission (at least as a captain) on the basis of the non-performance of the team.

Together, these two things make this decision anything but "unfair". I strongly believe that Ganguly is one of the greatest one-day players ever for us. He may still have a few more productive years for India. But for that he has to win his place back (just as Dravid did and to some extent as Kumble did too). Of course, this is happening fairly late in his career, but I believe he has a good five years of cricket left in him and that gives him ample time to work his way back into the team.

October 13, 2005

Good Looks.

Interestingly I overheard the following while sitting in my office today reading this article:

"A couple as good-loking as you are are obligated to reproduce".

To be sure, it was a casual remark made without much thought. Exactly because of that reason it illustrates the obsession with good-looks in human beings (particularly in America). When I say good-looks, I mean the whole baggage associated with "good-looks". A natural offshoot of this obsession is a cuture of deification of celebrities in popular culture. The article I mentioned above decries this veneration of celebrities, and conludes in this conext that celebrity is in almost all cases a matter of luck.

It is true that being cute or good-looking is almost always one of the major talking points about any kid. Understandably then one would find a good-looking kid a desirable phenomenon.

On the other hand, it stands to reason that the desirable quality in parents is an ability to groom their kids effectively. Being good-looking is no guarantor of this or any other desirable parental quality. Indeed, good-looks mean nothing in any moderately important human activity. If anything they can only give a false feeling of potency which can be quite misleading.

Having said all this, I must admit too that fascination with good-looks is one of the more basic impulses in human beings.

October 10, 2005

The Jungle - Continued.

The passage quoted below from The Jungle is remarkable for a number of reasons.

It depicts the mood of an era with brutal and unforgiving emphasis. The deplorable moral situation of that day was set forth with unfailing conviction: humanity was festering and stewing and wallowing in its own corruption. One can not possibly convey the point in a stronger manner. We are reminded of the hopelessly chaotic situation where the last remining individual values and common decencies are uprooted by the system as a matter of inevitability. Essentially this passage portrays the moral choas among the lower classes (or working classes) which is an inevitable consequence of the conditions in which the society functions. But more importantly it distingushes that with the moral transgression of the higher classes which is the driving force and indeed the fuel of every other form of moral choas. One realizes then that, in principle, this wild-beast tangle is present even today.

This passage, and indeed this novel, is great for reaching the summit of literary clarity.

The Jungle.

This is a great passage from Upton Sinclair's "The Jungle". He was writing about a group of prisoners in early twentieth century. Does it not represent the reality of today as well?

They could tell the whole hateful story of it, set forth the inner soul of a city in which justice and honor, women's bodies and men's souls, were for sale in the market place, and human beings writhed and fought and fell upon each other like wolves in a pit; in which lusts were raging fires, and men were fuel, and humanity was festering and stewing and wallowing in its own corruption. Into this wild-beast tangle these men had been born without their consent, they had taken part in it because they could not help it; that they were in jail was no disgrace to them, for the game had never been fair to them, the dice were loaded. They were swindlers and thieves of pennies and dimes, and they had been trapped and put out of the way by the swindlers and thieves of millions of dollars.

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