Friday, September 21, 2012

Comeback Prince – Yuvraj Singh returns for India

Yuvraj Singh marked his comeback to the Indian batting line-up against a New Zealand side that they had comprehensively beaten in the Test series leading up to the T20 matches. Bangalore was initially haunted by a torrential outburst of fading monsoon showers, but ‘The Prince’ still managed to grab the spot light.
The India-New Zealand test series was going to be the final swansong of another of India’s golden elites. But VVS Laxman decided to go vigilante and announced his retirement a weekend before the series commenced. Indian cricket was up in confusion and it, ironically, required another eventful incident to transpire which would effectively divert attention from the Laxman-saga. India performed well against a Kiwi side that failed to understand spin and the selectors got their star from last year’s World Cup back in coloured jersey. Yuvraj was included in the 13-man squad for the two matches and the social media went abuzz, not unlike last November when the news about his illness was released.
After being released from chemotherapy sessions in Indianapolis, USA, his father described Yuvraj’s immense desire to continue adorning the Indian shirt. He assured that his son would come back stronger and better. This statement proved to be true when the Punjabi lad made a swashbuckling 34 off just 26 balls. That innings featured a mighty six off Vettori that sailed 90 meters into the stands; all questions about his game were silenced. India lost the match but the admission of Singh to a strangely weakening batting order, was a blissful win. 
The Indian Cricket Team opened their campaign in the on-going Twenty20 World Cup in Sri Lanka against fellow competitors from the subcontinent. Afghanistan was an inspired team and managed to trouble the Indians in parts and bits. Yuvraj, alongside Virat Kohli, starred with the ball picking up 3 wickets for a meagre 24 runs in a dry win for India. Captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni said in a press interview later that Singh’s slow left armers were missed sorely. His deliveries generally grip and turn handsomely on flat subcontinent pitches which were critical in vital games. 
As much has Yuvraj’s comeback has been a favourable publicity and marketing stunt for quite a few corporates, it also was showed that the southpaw was a vital cog for Team India. Recent retirees Dravid and Laxman expressed immense pleasure on his return, as well as genuine concern for the team at the moment. Kohli stands an entire staircase higher than his fellow companions in the dressing room, with the Dhonis and Sehwags seldom performing on their hay days. A line-up that includes Sachin Tendulkar was beginning to look all the less reassuring. Singh’s return adds that essential spice to India’s bland cricketing curry, that raw aggression back where it rightfully belongs.
Although it is too early to predict whether or not he would match up to his feats previous to the cancer, all we can do is wait, hope and keep believing for another Andrew Flintoff to spurn him up. They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Yuvraj Singh is testimony to the statement.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Viral Video goes awry

“Innocence of Muslim” - the video managed to do what the Arab Spring did against corrupt regimes. It spoke out in a loud, distinct voice about how Muslims have been subjected to inhuman labelling in the Western world. The movie was the centre stage for severe criticism from around the world, from among which many protests turned violent. 

In June, the video was posted to YouTube by a man calling himself Sam Bacile, who later claimed to be an Israeli Jew. It turns out that Bacile is probably Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, a Coptic Christian, a convicted fraudster, and an alleged meth cooker. The little known movie gained massive recognition due to harsh portrayal of Prophet Muhammad as a drunk, a child molester, and a homosexual. The initial cost of the movie was sourced to about $5 million, but the video’s shabby production and poor camera work rarely highlights its cost. The film was screened to an audience of about 10 people, before the social media went haywire over it. 

With Facebook, Twitter and Youtube being cornerstones of numerous revolts the past year in the Arab World, it wasn’t surprising that a similar buzz, if not less, was evoked when the content was heavily popularized through these medium. If it was conspiracy to inspire chaos, it worked well. As protests erupted amongst the Muslim community the world over, rioters target the US agenda of Muslim stereotyping. The “Innocence of Muslim” is also in question to have inspired the military-styled attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi that led to the death of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens to Libya and three other Americans. However the White House has denied the allegation and released a statement saying that the attack was pre-planned and not a responsive action.
Ripples of the protest were felt Indian shores too. Demonstrations were held in Srinagar, Kashmir, as local imams denounced the film and the heinous act aimed at hurting the sentiments of the Muslims. During a protest started on 14 September and continued for three days, US consulate at Chennai was pelted with stones breaking some window panes, allegedly by members from the Tamil Nadu Muslim Munnetra Kazagam. As a result, issuing of Visa by the consulate was cancelled for two days. 

The movie, however gruesomely stereotyped, was after all an amateur attempt to fuel hatred against a certain section of the world community. But if we remove the Arab and Islamic sentiments from the video, it represents, in metaphors, the general consensus of the average American youth. A recent survey by the PRRI showed that over 46 per cent saying they are uncomfortable with a mosque built near their home, 47 per cent saying Islam and American values are incompatible and 48 per cent saying they are uncomfortable with Muslim women wearing the burqa. Overall, 60 per cent of Americans agreed that too many Americans think that all Muslims are terrorists.
The video may in fact just be yet another viral video gone awry by an average American, like many of those who were surveyed. But the fire erupting from this stove might spread to the entire kitchen. The US administration has to react quickly and in a manner that doesn’t evoke further flak. Or else, they may soon run out of fire extinguishers.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Little bit of this, Little bit of That

For the first time in 9 years, the game of tennis is drawing parallels to golf. Four different winners hold aloft the four Grand Slams, each equally worthy of proclaiming themselves as champion. The last time tennis witnessed such contrasting winners was in 2003 - an aging Agassi won down under; then ATP No. 1 Juan Carlos Ferrero was victorious in Roland Garros; Federer stepped on the podium of greatness for the first time in SW19 and recent retiree Roddick promised America so much more with his win at Flushing Meadows.
Tennis lovers were looking forward to a competitive treat the following year. Little did they know that the Swiss from Basel had other intentions. Roddick, Hewitt and even Safin were forced to mere silhouettes, as Roger Federer went on a rampage for the next 4 and a bit years. The coveted No. 1 spot was propelled to illustrious heights; number 2 was certainly becoming the first loser. In stepped Nadal and challenged Federer for court supremacy. The clay was his fortress which then expanded to grass and then the concrete. The Swiss maestro was humbled, however brief it might have been. The pivotal triumvirate emerged just last year, when Novak Djokovic resembled more of a superhuman until Federer partially clipped his wings at the French Open. That didn’t stop the Serb from picking up three Majors and on the way, giving Nadal haunting nightmares: the kind Federer suffered from. 

Andy Murray carried the expectations of 56 million Brits and the weight of his own disappointment on his shoulders. He had challenged to break the supremacy of the trio, but tennis for him was as an elusive Olympus. His coach Ivan Lendl had lost his first five Major finals, and the Scot’s career drew a strange parallel. Winning the US Open showed Murray that he was indeed capably qualified to join strides with Federer, Nadal and Djokovic. There was a moment or two in the final though, where the darker shades of his frailties begun to spring up. He squandered a two set lead, and Djokovic was grinning with flashes of brilliance. The story would have been entirely different had Novak won the last set. Serbia would rejoice again, and Britain’s wait would extend – the ghost of Fred Perry still plaguing the isle. But the tale was scripted to be romantic.
So far, this year has been refreshing. Not that the years previous to it weren’t, but the fact that no player was able to dominate the ATP rooster completely, filled fans and followers of respective tennis camps with oodles of joy. Little could we fathom that the rankings in January, would determine the sequence of winners. Djokovic conquered Rod Laver arena and fizzed out as the year progressed. Nadal rightfully stepped up to master the clay before his unfortunate injuries finally took a toll on him. An aging Federer proved that there was tennis still left in his heart, showcasing class and fitness beyond his years on his way to reclaiming number one. Murray forced tears of happiness, giving his nation an Olympic Gold along with the US Open crown. Whose year has it been? Well, for the sheer surprises that they have provided us with, Roger Federer and Andy Murray would have to battle it out. 

Tennis, like any other sport, exhilarates and forces us to watch it with a feeling that it is more than just a game. It defines life for these athletes who have perspired so much to inspire us all. Their victories ensure that the game itself wins. It helps lay down cornerstones which hold as foundations for many of our dreams and aspirations. Like George Orwell explains it, “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others”.