Nov 27, 2003

Thanks Steve

Nov 26, 2003


Master of the Seinfeld Domain

Nov 25, 2003

The Best World Cup Final ever

The Reloading of Sherlock Holmes

Nov 24, 2003

On inertia and procrastination

The Beast is here, where is the first party?

Nov 23, 2003


Nov 21, 2003


Everything that has a beginning has an end...

Matrix Revolutions Reloaded

Nov 17, 2003

Sens, and Sensibility?

The Wisdom Tree Film Festival

Nov 15, 2003

Top spin Down Under

It's not The Matrix Resolutions, dummy!

Nov 12, 2003

An American in Punya-nagari

Blog Dilemmas - I

A name for it - QLC

Nov 10, 2003

After the Revolutions

The South African Geniuses

RKL Note

Nov 9, 2003

My ten favourite A.R.Rahman albums

World Cup Rugby - Nearing the touchline

Mad about Adam

The News from TN

Nov 5, 2003

Bappi-da in the flesh

The Matrix is also brown now

Fleming complains - again!

Nov 4, 2003

Change in template

Colours change in this blog after quite a while - a result of some honest html fiddling. If there's any trouble with anyone's favourite browser, I'd like to know - sadly, I'll try to keep it looking good for the ones I use i.e. Netscape/Mozilla. It's not completely settled down yet though.

Nov 3, 2003

Notes on the skipper

In every discussion involving the topics of leadership, I have found myself discussing examples from the world of cricket. It always turns out to be quite a worthwhile exercise and I decided to delve deeper into why it should be so. It has a lot of layers to it.

Captaincy in cricket has always been much debated and discussed; captaincy in the game is viewed upon by observers as a great achievement and honour, and has been invested with greater awe than in other sports. For instance, in other team sports like football or hockey or even basketball, the coach-manager seems to hold prime position, which means the responsibility of tactics and strategy, of motivation and results lie ultimately on him, and it is his head that will be called to be placed on the block when things go wrong. In cricket, all of the above is more of the captain's job - the coach is just a senior guide. A reasonable analogy would be that the skipper is the King, the coach the chief counsellor. Other semi-team events like the Davis Cup primarily have non-playing captains, while the top players concentrate only on their matches and not the overall picture. Captains in all these games apart from cricket (by "captain" here I mean the leader on the field) is usually the most inspirational or senior and responsible player in the side (take for e.g. Keane of Manchester United or Dhanraj in Indian Hockey). These are more influential by what they do in the course of their performance, or being creative in their sport - they don't have the same degree of responsibility towards their other teammates as that of a cricket captain.

A cricket captain, on the other hand, has to think of hundred and one items to do - this in addition to watching out for his own performance. That's the reason why many times, captains in cricket do not have to be the best players in their team, nor do they have to be very senior. The whole range of skills are different than from captains in other sports. For instance, a captain in the field must worry about bowling options and changes, about covering the large field of play with the 11 resources at hand, of over-rates and quota of bowlers, of whom to bowl at the death, of specialised tactics for some batsmen. The batting captain doesn't have it all that easy as well - batting orders, timing the declaration, sending out messages to speed up the rate are some of the duties is he ultimately responsible for. It helps if he has a line saying "am usually lucky with the toss" on his CV. Motivation falls in his kitty too - at least the best captains do it. It isn't that difficult to understand why not all captains can maintain their previous performances in this situation.

So in essence, a cricket captain is like a manager of his resources, but this does not mean a reduction in his original duties as a player, for that is his primary purpose. He can't be an MBA in Cricketing Management without being a graduate in one of the disciplines of Cricket, if you know what I mean :-). That must make life really tough for a cricket captain. How does a leader motivate or even rebuke another player if his own output isn't upto the mark? Add the fact that great individual talent or brilliant cricketing acumen is no guarantee of success - some of the best captains have just been fortunate to be in the right place at the right time with the right team.

Coming back to the original motivation, I found that examples of leadership (for purposes of study and comparison) in other fields are difficult to obtain in detail. For instance, corporate, political or military leadership isn't readily apparent - the leaders carry out their ideas in relative privacy and in the presence of only a few people. In any field, results often decide whether a decision was good or not, but some tough ideas that may seem bad to others but are actually far-sighted can best be implemented without having to explain the purposes to all and sundry all the time. In cricket, the decisions are taken in full public glare, especially in front of many self-proclaimed pundits. Things can go haywire very easily - the difference between a poor call and a stroke of genius is almost invisible (there are so many instances of this). The leader can only take a chance - the player designated to carry it out has to deliver. He may have done it in the past, but may not be able to repeat it again. Again, these are routine dilemmas that leaders in all fields have to contend with, but it's so much more difficult to do it in the presence of instant feedback.

Cricket captaincy can turn players into sobbing wrecks (Kim Hughes of Australia), make ordinary players look like geniuses (Mike Brearley of England), raise questions of criticism against the most loved of all players (Sachin Tendulkar of India), raise a player to almost a feudal lord (Imran Khan of Pakistan), in addition to making them ambassadors for their nation expected to set an example to all. Success in captaincy can hide many flaws and can shower tremendous respect on whom the mantle has rested with ease. It can also singe great players, whom the remark "but he failed at captaincy" drags down from his pedestal. Every player with any aspirations to long-lasting fame in cricket hopes to do it through the route of captaincy, very few can truly recognise that there might be a possibility that they may not be suited for the job.

Harsha Bhogle and his wife conduct corporate seminars where they use episodes from cricket as a means to let participants discuss the business world and obtain lessons to use in any way they wish (not entirely sure of what happens there). I wonder if captaincy is something which is highlighted. I find it a fascinating way of learning about types of leadership, challenges faced, decisions taken, results obtained - it can be related to more easily. Perhaps management students are perusing case-studies or someone's doing a doctoral dissertation on it for years! I think the pace of cricket is suited to developing and testing leadership skills like these - whether it be the quick, difficult, extreme pressure and pace of one-day cricket or the more involved strategies, looking for opportunities, responding to changing conditions of the longer version resulting in lessons that mirror situations in other fields. And these can be easily learnt - for free.

Nov 2, 2003

Ash Bash-ing

Ok, I shall bite: is Aishwarya Rai such a big star that people are going nuts that she's turned 30? I mean I can understand people going crazy if her age was counting down or something: "Oh, she will be a sweet 16 again someday!" Ok, I'm being mean and perhaps it isn't really her fault that everyone's going gaga, but she's definitely milking the occasion too.

As you can see, I'm not one of those who go "Rah, Rah Rai!" over the lady. As an actress, I don't think usne kuch khaas tiir maare.n hai.n, that in an age where some rather pretty Indian actresses are actually doing well. I don't even think she in the top 4 or 5 current mainstream Hindi actresses (if it wasn't for all those qualifiers, she's be even lower). Checking her filmography at IMDB out (instead of her), I see ~4 hits - Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, Taal, Kandukondain Kandukondain and two half hits in Jeans and Devdas (may be a little wrong) - not too bad in a 7 year career. But where is the acting, dearie? I may be completely biased here, having only seen her work at length in Iruvar and Kandukondain..., where I thought she was good in the first and competent in the second, but I haven't seen her being discussed much as an actress.

Naah, I must be biased - I was among the many people who backed Sushmita Sen over her in their head-to-heads in 1993-94-95 (blame it on my wide-eyedness and the age 13-14-15). Today I back neither as actresses. She is lucky to get decent offers, but until they really explode in my face, all the fans will have a carper in me.

Another pet peeve is public calling her "Ash". I mean, are they her <start coarse Tamil phrase> maamaa or machaa.n <end coarse Tamil phrase> (Translated to are they related to her in any close way?) to cut her name one-third? There's something that annoys me about it when every Tom, Dick and Harry calls her that, establishing some sort of acquaintanceship with her. I'm a little worried, do I like her sub-consciously to take affront? But it's not the same as saying SRK or Sachin or Rahul or Big B, it's like if everyone if said Chi-Chi (Govinda recently complained about how everyone calls him that without even really knowing him) or Bebo or Lolo (these Kapoor khandan guys sure had a kink for the alliteration) or Lee-Hesh or Atal or something.

So coming back to the original poser: does she deserve such hoopla being festooned over her? Not yet atleast. Compare with some other star birthday celebrations of late. Amitabh's birthday has been a subject of hype and coverage in keeping with his resurgence of late. At 61, I wouldn't grudge him that. Sachin Tendulkar's thirtieth was also splashed on the front pages - but in cricket, especially for a batsman, 30 is a milestone. Careers last only till 35-38, so turning 30 for a long-serving player can be a time for recollection, assessment and change in expectations. Now we look at it as a list like: needs to get to 35 Test centuries, India's first 300+ Test innings, 12000 Test runs, even 150 wickets in ODI bowling perhaps? Also, we've all grown up watching SRT now, a little protective affection is inevitable. Ms. Rai on the other hand - long way to go yet. It's not as if she was the young Sachin of the film industry or she's even done a Sehwag there. Maybe at 40, with successful international productions, genuinely carrying a film (however awful) only with her performance and even a Bond-dame later perhaps? If she can avoid the pitfalls of the regular Bollywood heroine at 40 and still have people going crazy then, yes, on November 1 2013, I shall join the rest in offering more than the routine birthday wish.

Yes, I know I come from a land where film actor's birthdays are celebrated each year by their respective rasikar manDrams by pasting posters on every free inch of wall space, but isn't Bollywood the "leader of Indian Cinema" ;-)

Nov 1, 2003

Satyajit Bhatkal's book on the making of Lagaan documents how the director grappled with the idea of giving Aamir Khan a look that included a departure from his usual clean-shaven appearance, which would be in tune with the period. They eventually dropped the idea because I guess they didn't want to dilute what was going to be their biggest calling card to counter-balance all the difficulties the film was going to provide: the immense appeal of the lead actor.

As I had expressed earlier, Aamir Khan has rarely, despite his reputation as a "different" actor, experimented with looks and characters (DCH wasn't the rule). It's good to see, hence, that in the upcoming film on the 1857 uprising by Ketan Mehta, Aamir gets long locks and a thick moustache.