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Archive for January, 2012

India’s cricket debacle – The real story

January 15, 2012 4 comments

India’s disastrous tours to England and Australia have left fans, players and the administration wondering. What is the real story? 2ndlook to the rescue …

Mahendra Dhoni has lost hair - and greyed in a matter of a few years. The stress has taken its toll. Has he lost the plot?  |  Image courtesy - firstpost.com  |  Click for source image.

Mahendra Dhoni has lost hair - and greyed in a matter of a few years. The stress has taken its toll. Has he lost the plot? | Image courtesy - firstpost.com | Click for source image.

The poor Indian cricket fan

The inexplicable collapse of the India’s cricket team on the English and the Australian tours has evoked usual ‘explanations’ and standard ‘solutions’.

Losing 4 test matches in England and the first 3 test matches in Australia for a world champion team needs more than usual ‘explanations’ and standard ‘solutions’.

The answer is staring in the face – but strangely, no one is talking of that. Before coming to the answer let us look at current debate.

Duncan Fletcher is the problem

Many commentators include Duncan Fletcher in the problem area – and credit Gary Kirsten, the previous coach with all the successes. Logically, if Gary Kirsten was so good, South Africa, his new team would not give the standard performance that they did against Sri Lanka.

In fact, Sri Lanka won their first ever test in South Africa – after Gary Kirsten became the South African coach.

Similarly, there is no evidence that Duncan Fletcher has done anything that can explain this non-performance.

The poor Indian cricket fan is bewildered by this turn in performance. | Cartoon by Ajit Ninan. Source and courtesy - ksurendran.wordpress.com | Click for larger image.

The poor Indian cricket fan is bewildered by this turn in performance. | Cartoon by Ajit Ninan. Source and courtesy - ksurendran.wordpress.com | Click for larger image.

Senior players must be axed

Knives are out for two of the three senior players in the team, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman. Their stupendous performance till the 2011 world cup was the talk of town – and it believed that they would go on for ever.

Critics also forget that the selectors did drop a senior like Harbhajan – who was usually a ‘performer’ against the Australians.

This seniors-must-be-axed theory also does not explain the non-performance by younger players.

Indians hash their trips abroad

Indian cricket team does not have a good record of wins in overseas locations.

This is usually related to the fact that pitches and playing conditions are different – and unless adequate warm-up games are played, players have difficulties in adjusting to the new playing conditions. Weather, food, and social life play are a part in this.

This argument has some merit. Gary Kirsten did take an unusual step of sending Rahul Dravid and (and VVS Laxman), if the I remember correctly, early to South Africa for acclimatization.

Kris Srikanth must work on the principle of two peaks in 18 months  |  Cartoon by Ajit Ninan; source and courtesy - timescontent.com  |  Click for larger source image.

Kris Srikanth must work on the principle of two peaks in 18 months | Cartoon by Ajit Ninan; source and courtesy - timescontent.com | Click for larger source image.

Dhoni is not the captain that he was

There is also a small section of thinking that puts Dhoni in the problem basket.

Apart from nit-picking, there is little evidence that Dhoni has handled the team and resources badly. Putting up more than 350 runs only once in the last 7 overseas tests is evidence of a performance problem.

And not a captaincy problem.

Catch-all theories

There is also the general ‘BCCI is the root of all evil’ theory – which is neither here nor there.

Then there are those who do a mix-and-match of the above three parameters. Plus there are others who think that since cricketers are over-paid glamor boys, having made their money, they finally don’t care.

Solutions for this non-performance also flow from the above definitions. These solutions range from getting younger players, planning for more trips abroad, prepare fast pitches in India, change the captain, et al.

Since non-performance is the issue, performance management is what we will need to look at.

BCCI has not seen two years in the future and accounted for 'peaking' of the cricket team.  |  Cartoon source & courtesy - timescontent.com  |  Click for source image.

BCCI has not seen two years in the future and accounted for 'peaking' of the cricket team. | Cartoon source & courtesy - timescontent.com | Click for source image.

Indian Cricket calendar

The Indian cricket team has played 6 significant tournaments in calendar year 2011 – South Africa, World Cup, IPL, England, West Indies – and now in Australia.

Five of these six tournaments (against South Africa, World Cup, IPL, England and Australia) were with world class teams and players – except against a sapped and depleted West Indies team. In between these tournaments, they have had a break of 1-2 weeks.

A usual factory worker, gets nearly 100 days off in a year in a predictable manner. Compared to that Indian team players have got 60 days of break in a 365 days. Rest of the time, they have been in a multi-week contests.

Achieving peak performance

In tennis, 3 of the four Grand Slam events in tennis are clumped together in 120 days of May-September of each year. As a result,

A number of high-achievement players have failed to achieve the Career Grand Slam. Björn Borg never won the US Open or the Australian Open. John McEnroe never won the Australian Open or the French Open. Ken Rosewall, Guillermo Vilas, Ivan Lendl, Monica Seles, Mats Wilander, and Justine Henin failed to win Wimbledon. Pete Sampras, John Newcombe, Arthur Ashe, Jimmy Connors, Boris Becker, Stefan Edberg, Martina Hingis, and Lindsay Davenport failed to win the French Open. Evonne Goolagong Cawley never won the US Open, and Helen Wills Moody and Althea Gibson never won the Australian Open. (via Grand Slam (tennis) – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia; accessed on 15th January, 2011 @14:30 IST).

After years of lack of Grand Slam winners, in 1982 the International Tennis Federation (ITF) relaxed the definition of Grand Slam winner. From winning all 4 tournaments in a calendar year, to consecutive winner, which may spread over a period of two calendar years.

Even after the easier definition, no male tennis players has made the grade of a grand slam in a non-calendar yea. Rod Laver remains the most recent male grand-slam winner in 1969 – more than 40 years ago.

Looking at this picture of over-played cricketers, Indian fans can take heart … and some hope.

Now let us look at what sports performance management theory says.

Performance management theory

Over the last 50 years, sports has worked on the principle that sportsmen must prepare for a peak in a year.

Keep in mind that you can have many “peaks” during the year and during the season, but most elite athletes aim for one primary event or goal, and plan the rest of the training season around that. Recreational athletes can easily have multiple peaks of a lesser degree. This is common if you race many different “fun runs” during the summer. If you are on a recreational league or team you probably have a built-in season, and your training is planned so you continually improve and peak during play-offs or a final event. (via Race Day Preparation – How to Peak for Races and Events).

Sports trainers refer to this system of training as ‘periodization.’

Periodization is an organized approach to training that involves progressive cycling of various aspects of a training program during a specific period.

Training should be organized and planned in advance of a competition or performance. It should consider the athlete’s potential, his/her performance in tests or competition, and calendar of competition.

The annual plan is important in that it directs and guides athletic training over a year. It is based on the concept of periodization and the principles of training.

Preparatory Phase

This phase consists of the general preparation and specific preparation. Usually the general preparation is the longer of the two phases.

Competitive Phase

This phase may contain a few main competitions each containing a pre-competitive and a main competition. Within the main competition, an uploading phase and a special preparatory phase may be included.

Transition Phase

This phase is used to facilitate psychological rest, relaxation and biological regeneration as well as to maintain an acceptable level of general physical preparation. This phase lasts between 3 – 4 weeks (maybe longer) but should not exceed 5 weeks under normal conditions. (via Sports periodization – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.).


Google, Twitter – New Battlefields for State Control

January 14, 2012 1 comment

When China restricts Google, it is censorship; when US controls Twitter, it is fight against terrorism.

When China restricts Google, it is censorship; when US controls Twitter, it is fight against terrorism.  | Cartoonist - Andy Singer, source & courtesy - Politicalcartoons.com  on 2/28/2006 12:00:00 AM  |  Click for larger source image.

When China restricts Google, it is censorship; when US controls Twitter, it is fight against terrorism. | Cartoonist - Andy Singer, source & courtesy - Politicalcartoons.com on 2/28/2006 12:00:00 AM | Click for larger source image.

Better propaganda

A few years ago, as the Chinese government pushed for oversight on Google, there were loud protests from Western media – and much noise and clamor over freedom, liberty, et al. We have now limited viewership on the US government trying to arm-wrestle Twitter into submission and compliance.

Pray, what is the difference between one-party dictatorship in China and two-party democracy in USA?

Is it better propaganda?

After London riots, there was a call for restrictions on Twitter and Facebook. The State will look for ways to dominate and control all aspects of individual life. |  Cartoonist - Mike Keefe, source & courtesy - caglecartoons.com on 8/11/2011 12:00:00 AM  |  Click for larger source image.

After London riots, there was a call for restrictions on Twitter and Facebook. The State will look for ways to dominate and control all aspects of individual life. | Cartoonist - Mike Keefe, source & courtesy - caglecartoons.com on 8/11/2011 12:00:00 AM | Click for larger source image.

U.S. officials told the New York Times that they’re “looking closely” at Shabab’s use of Twitter and their options for legal and other responses. Separately, Sen. Joe Lieberman (@JoeLieberman), Chair of the Homeland Security Committee, called on Twitter to shut down the Taliban’s accounts.

Other Western governments have also turned against Twitter. British Prime Minister David Cameron (@Number10gov), for example, raised the prospect of banning Twitter during social disturbances, following its use by rioters in the U.K., and Mexican prosecutors have accused Twitter users of terrorism for spreading false rumors that have led to real-life violence.

An Israeli legal advocacy group, Shurat HaDin Israel Law Center, has separately threatened Twitter with legal action for hosting the Shabab and Hezbollah accounts. (via U.S. To Twitter: Stop Sleeping With The Enemy – Forbes).

Hypocrisy has its uses

My favorite song these days – Main karoo to saala character dheela hai. And since the song is so good, Salmaan Khan looks like he is worth a Best actor award.


China’s Soft Power Ambitions

January 13, 2012 1 comment

China’s expected rise as a global soft-power has been beset with unexpected difficulties and slower if not zero growth.

Earlier China could no wrong. Now China gets nothing right.  |  Cartoonist - Rex May; source and courtesy - toonpool.com  |  Click for larger image.

Earlier China could no wrong. Now China gets nothing right. | Cartoonist - Rex May; source and courtesy - toonpool.com | Click for larger image.

Rising power

Although Joseph Nye supposedly coined the term soft-power in the 1980s, it came into popular usage after his 2004 book, Soft Power: The Means to Success in World Politics.

From the time that Joseph Nye coined the term soft-power, China has been positioned, by Western media as the challenger to American (& Western) soft-power.

America has been particularly adept at using soft-power. In modern times, whether its was Jesse Owens (victim becomes spokesman of Promised Land) after 1936 Berlin Olympics, or the use of jazz and hip-hop to showcase American ‘culture.’ American multinationals serve as outposts of American media and culture.

But curiously, the more China tries to become a soft-power, the more incapable it finds itself.

Mr Hu may have been slow to adopt Mr Nye’s term openly, but soon after he took office in 2002 he began trying to make China a more attractive brand. In June 2003 a small group of senior propaganda officials and foreign-policy experts met in Beijing for the first time to discuss the importance of soft power. (via China abroad: Sun Tzu and the art of soft power | The Economist).

Cultural security – they say

Most recently, the Chinese President, Hu Jin Tao, lamented the lack of Chinese soft-power – and cautioned the Chinese nation of the dangers from Western culture.

Chinese leaders have long lamented the fact that Western expressions of popular culture and art seem to overshadow those from China. The top-grossing films in China have been “Avatar” and “Transformers 3,” and the music of Lady Gaga is as popular here as that of any Chinese pop singer. In October, at the sixth plenum of the party’s Central Committee, where Mr. Hu gave his speech, officials discussed the need for bolstering the “cultural security” of China.

At the same time, China has been making a push to increase its cultural influence abroad, or its “soft power.” The government has opened up Confucius Institutes around the world to aid foreigners in learning Chinese. The state is also lavishing money on opening operations of large state-run news organizations, including Xinhua, the state news agency, and China Central Television, in cities around the world. Officials from those organizations say they hope their version of the world events becomes as common as those from Western news organizations.

People involved in the arts here say the policy also means more government financing for Chinese companies to create cultural products, ranging from books to live musical productions. At the same time, officials have been encouraging many cultural industries to become more market driven and rely less on government subsidies.

President Hu Jintao has said China must strengthen its cultural production to defend against the West’s assault on the country’s culture and ideology, according to an essay in a Communist Party policy magazine published this week. The publication of Mr. Hu’s words signaled that a new major policy initiative announced in October would continue well into 2012.

“The overall strength of Chinese culture and its international influence is not commensurate with China’s international status,” Mr. Hu said in his essay, according to another translation.

“The international culture of the West is strong while we are weak,” he added.(via China’s Leader Pushes Back at Lady Gaga and Western Culture – NYTimes.com).

To Western media, India, seemed like an unlikely candidate as Emerging Soft-Power, has been ranked highest among emerging economies.

The index produced by the ICD ranked forty countries by these means, and found that Germany and the Netherlands came joint first, with Norway in third. The UK was fifth, the US was seventh, and India was the leading emerging economy, in tenth place.

The true essence of soft-power. How the West creates a hegemony using sports  |  Cartoonist - Jonathan Zapiro; source & courtesy - movingimages.wordpress.com  |  Click for larger source image.

The true essence of soft-power. How the West creates a hegemony using sports | Cartoonist - Jonathan Zapiro; source & courtesy - movingimages.wordpress.com | Click for larger source image.

Against the wind

Although China has been ranked the 3rd largest marketfor film exhibition, domestic Chinese films have had lukewarm reception from Chinese viewers – especially compared to Hollywood.

The  Chinese film industry, after support from the Chinese government and even after Hollywood investments, it is the unlikely Nigerian film industry that has both overtaken China and Hollywood.

While Korea, Taipei, China and even Europe struggle with keeping their film industries alive, Bollywood and the Nigerian film industry seem to having it easy. Nollywood, as Nigeria’s film industry has come to be known, is today second only to Bollywood in production volumes. Going by revenues, Nollywood slips to third place.  Is global soft-power following the 2ndlook model of culture competition – and not the model of so-called clash of civilizations.

What gives?


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