Monday, December 31, 2012

The year gone by ...

Caught in between a year when I got admitted into IIMA, got placed a couple of times (once at IIMA and once at MANIT); and the year when I would get to know my career path for life, 2012 for me would've felt like Rahul Dravid. Though it promised to be unsung, it turned out to be dependable with not many shocks and a few surprises that garnished it all through. 

Sport, something that drives my life day-in day-out, but for the fact that I don't play any of them except the armchair versions of them like Football Manager. The year was a major disappointment in the sporting sense. Nothing can match the heart wrenching feeling when you spend 600 bucks out of your own pocket to recharge the common TV in the PG, and then watch Aguero scoring deep into injury time to win the league for City.  On the other hand, Rafael Nadal gave me a few moments of joy, when he won the French Open title yet again, but watching him struggle for his fitness in the later part of the season was sad to say the least. Sadly, 2013 doesn't look to be much better for Rafa as he ruled himself out of the Australian Open as well. 

2012 also saw a personal favourite and role model hang up his boots. Will definitely miss the impeccably tucked in and sparkling clean white flannels walking (more often than not) within the first few overs of an Indian Innings. Those safe hands in the slip cordon. One of the most articulate persons Indian Cricket has ever had. The solidity and reliability that he provided when the chips were down and the team was stuttering. Will miss Jammy, my role model and hero since I can remember. If there was a brand ambassador for sheer hardwork and work ethic, it has to be Rahul Dravid. A person whom I literally worship for the amount he has achieved. 

On the personal front, 2012 gave me a lot that would make it memorable for I started taking my writing more seriously than ever before. While 2011 for me, was about getting back to writing, my 2012 resolution went on the lines of taking in more seriously. PaGaLGuY (and thus kicked it off for me I guess.  "Are you sure you want to do an MBA?" lead to India Today inviting me to write a column for them on similar lines which ended up being the "Rags to Riches or Riches to Rags" story. I finally beat my laziness to join Sportskeeda and penned 4 articles for them as well.

The internship at HT Media was a nice experience - both in terms of work and the experience, though the life at Gurgaon was sad, to say the least. With nearly 8 hours of power cuts, it was a torturous experience to even catch some sleep. And the one experience of going in an Auto with two drivers on the street-light-less roads of Gurgaon close to midnight, scared the daylights out of me! 

Receiving my first salary cheque after roaming around the streets of Delhi, Gurgaon and Noida for a month; has to rank among the most satisfying moments of my life. PGP1 at IIMA also came to an end, and quite a memorable year that was. Ended up in 4 clubs that I loved working for. Confluence happened, and that was one of the most memorable weekends of my life at IIMA. A football based project for a NGO co-founded by a former Indian football captain, a project on Indian Cinema; another on the Indian Railways; a course on Sports Marketing and suddenly even academics seemed so interesting and welcome! 

2013 looks as challenging as ever, and here's ending with the note that it brings a lot of happy memories of its own! Happy New Year to everyone who managed to reach as far as this! Hope you have a great year ahead as well! :)

Happy Birthday Sir Alex Ferguson!

This article was first published on Sportskeeda here:

While most of us lose our drive after a couple of successes, here’s a man who has retained it for decades now, after winning about 48 trophies as a football manager. A man who, even today, jumps around the touchline after a last minute goal as passionately and enthusiastically as a 12-year-old watching his first game of football. A man who is still the first to work at Old Trafford even after 26 years of remarkable service. A man who motivates me every time I watch him or read about him.

 Sir Alex is a man who has built and re-built team after team at United, and has faced every challenge one could possibly think of for a manager – a team that wasn’t doing exactly well when he took over; challengers who sprouted overnight as a result of sugar daddies; rebellious players; a bunch of kids with whom critics reckoned he could win nothing with; transitions, and multiple transitions at that; scandals that involved players; players who could start fights in an empty house; owners who weren’t possibly the best around; fan rebellions; players who wanted to walk out; players who were getting bigger than the team. And here’s someone who handled everything with the kind of treatment it exactly needed.

He is a man who hates losing and wants to win all the time irrespective of what he is involved in. Alex McLeish recalled an incident involving Sir Alex at Aberdeen, when they were playing cricket in pre-season. Ferguson wanted to bat first but was dismissed right in the first over, but refused to accept defeat and overruled the decision to keep playing.

A man whose dedication to United, and the family atmosphere he has cultivated at United is unmatched. Giggs and Beckham both have recalled having Sir Alex Ferguson came down to their home to get them to sign their schoolboy forms for Manchester United on their birthdays. His level of dedication is exemplified in one incident where he called up David Moyes to enquire about a 14-year-old Everton youngster who David Moyes had no clue about. On the other hand, Sir Alex knew everything about the lad.

An unmatched motivator, his players recall his half time ‘hair-dryer treatments’ particularly. “Just make sure you give it your all, because at the end of the game you’ll have to walk past that trophy and you won’t be able touch it,” he told his players during the half time team talk at Nou Camp in the 1999 Champions League final, that saw United pull off a historic comeback and complete an unprecedented treble. Critics see only the man who furiously points at his watch during the game, and the Ferguson who keeps talking to the fourth official on the sidelines. But they tend to ignore the winning attitude that he has that makes him want to win, whatever it may take.

A man who wants to keep going on forever at Manchester United, who famously said “You’ll be gone before I am gone, don’t you worry!” to a press person when asked about his retirement. But time will have its say, and he will probably call it a day sooner or later, a thought that haunts me and surely any Manchester United fan. But the meticulous planner that he is, he would have surely thought of the way the club will be taken forward.

Like the popular Facebook post doing the rounds; “For 26 years now, Manchester United has been a one man team. Sir Alex Ferguson.

Here’s wishing one of the greatest managers of all time, Sir Alex, a wonderful birthday and a many more years of success at Manchester United. Happy Birthday, Sir Alex Ferguson!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

The machinery or our mindset: The rape blame game

    Heroine wearing a sleeveless top and shorts gets groped in public by a random guy, and hits back at him in public. Hero is informed by a minion that something like this is happening, and walks into the scene. Hero rubs the hand of the guy and the heroine and then gives a 5 second lecture to the guy about how you should not hunt for 'flesh', and then turns to the heroine.

    Hero: "Your saree is missing, so is your in-skirt. You are standing just in your undergarments."
    Heroine: "These are  shorts"
    Hero: "Aei. These are shorts for you. For us (guys), this is an undergarment. Oh yeah, where is your blouse .. You are standing just in your bra"
    Heroine: "This is a sleeveless top"
    Hero: "For you this is a sleeveless. For us (guys), it is a bra. You expose your underarms, wear navel rings and have body art on your thighs. Is this an exhibition?"
     **Heroes friends who are watching cheer**
    Hero: "You wear clothes that enable other people to count the number of moles on your body. And then, you thrash the guy with your sandals when he gropes you. Off late, this has become your (girls') latest pasttime no? God created man for women, and women for man. They are there to satisfy each others' needs. He (God) created everything, but it is up to us to live rightfully. One guy for a girl and one girl for a guy. If you want to live as the one girl for a guy, then expose your body like this, just to him. If you show it to everyone, then all the guys on the road will want to sleep with you. "

    **Heroes friends who are watching cheer again**

    Hero: "Look here, be a proper girl, and wear a saree and cover yourself properly. Then guys will not look at you as a girl but as God. Go!"

     ... and  like a friend on Facebook pointed out, the hero goes on to dance in a 'exotic' location with the heroine, in the same movie with the heroine wearing skimpy clothes.

    This is definitely not a single case. There have been movies where our popular stars have used 'Rape as a tool to prove their manhood', when the heroine doubted the same. There have been instances of similar lectures where the women folk are expected to dress up in a certain way, if they are to be respected. And the scenes get cheered and the hero is wolf whistled for putting the heroine in her place. There has always been a tendency to use heroines in movies just for the glam factor. A popular heroine once said she was surprised that a director asked her to cover her hip when it was getting exposed while shooting for a movie; as it is generally the other way around.

    When your mainstream idols reiterate such stereotypes, it is hard for people to grow out of it. Perversion is something that is encouraged by cinema today, and in my opinion is one of the major influences on people today. If only our directors could come out of the same and give an equal footing to women ...

    Today the problem of sexual harassment, abuse, molestation and rape is so widespread that not a day passes without my Twitter timeline seeing a Retweet by someone about a rape case somewhere in the country. And to think these are only the cases that are reported, horrifies me. Not a single day passes without my parents worrying when my sister is out with her friends in the evenings/night; that too in a relatively safer city for women like Chennai. (Again, my opinion. May not necessarily be factual)

    An India Today article in 2009 estimated that nearly 90% of rape cases in India go unreported. There are shocking news items about kids as young as 3, being molested or raped etc. Given the level of crime that already goes unreported due to the 'shame' that will be brought upon the family or the girl having to go through her trauma once again, and for a variety of other reasons; I am not sure if capital punishment is the solution to reducing these instances. It would only increase the pressure (Self, family and external) on the girl who went through all the trauma in the first place. Given the magnitude of the punishment, the reluctance to report the same would only increase.


    "It was a close relative of ours, how could I let my parents or someone else know. It would have snowballed into a major problem," she said as she narrated her story of going through the trauma to me. Most such cases where the perpetrator of the crime is someone known, go unreported. "I have been followed on bikes by guys at night when I was walking on the road as well, quite a few times." But when asked she didn't do anything about it, she said "It is counter productive. I am even reluctant to let my parents know, lest they start worrying even more. I've learnt to ignore it these days."

    We cry out loud for capital punishment, but when people don't even come forward to complain, capital punishments wont solve anything. That said, a discussion here at the campus, made a valid point. Aren't we, in the society, a major cause for this as well? "How many guys are willing to accept a girl who has come out in the open about having gone through something like this, for marriage? At the same time, if the girl hides it, we are perfectly fine about the marriage," asked the moderator for the discussion. Isn't this attitude, of sidelining girls who have gone through the trauma, more traumatic for them? The discussion made me think twice, about what stops us from accepting girls who have been through something for no fault of theirs.

    When a girl goes through this, the society frowns upon her; and doubts her integrity. Whether she was properly clothed, whether she was inebriated, whether she has a boy friend etc. Our society, is quite archaic and sexist that way; and our 'culture' looks down upon girls who drink and says that a girl shouldn't be doing something like that. When a girl goes through this, she is said to have destroyed the 'honour' of her family. Even in the Delhi Case, an Indian Express article pointed out how relatives of the girl wanted to know whether the girl would be able to get married and have children; at a point when the entire country was worried about her surviving this ordeal alive, in the first place!

    At the end of the day, people resort to the easier alternative and the general human tendency of shifting the blame else where, and who easier than the government in this case. While the government, can indeed be said to have mismanaged this case at various levels, preventing the crime at large, cannot be something that the government alone can do. All of us, in the society will have to take a step towards it.

    It cannot be just the government only at the end of the day, as this is more of a societal problem, than a political one. Unless people realise the gravity of the crime and the pain that a girl goes through during and after the crime, it will be hard to put an end to this as a whole. The change, as always, will have to come from within.

    Instead of being "ashamed" of being in a country that cannot "protect" its women folk, why don't we all start doing our bit first? By standing up and questioning, if a girl is eve-teased in public transport, for a start?

    Disclaimer: Quite a few of the views expressed in this are not my own. I have used some of the views that friends or people whom I know, expressed, on social media and otherwise. The credits definitely belong to them.

    Tuesday, December 11, 2012

    Focaloid - Photography Unleashed!

    As a budding photographer, have you ever felt the need for a platform where you can get together with fellow shutterbugs from around the globe, where you can share your masterpieces (or atleast the ones that you think are masterpieces) and talk to them about how you could have made them better? If you’ve felt that a Flickr, which stops with photo-hosting and Facebook, that has only people liking all ‘good-looking’ photographs is inadequate to get some critical feedback on how you can improve or how good you actually are, that’s where Focaloid fills the gap. 

    Conceived as a social media platform to get photographers to discuss and share their photographs, Focaloid was launched on 19th August – incidentally World Photography Day - by a group of photography enthusiasts when they figured out that there was no place for them to discuss with their fellow aficionados from around the world. The team consisting of 5 founding partners – a NITIE alumnus, a former Infoscion, two IIM Ahmedabad students and web developer – has put together a website that has caught the eye of photographers across the world given the 200,000 page visits they have clocked up within 4 months of their launch and the average visit length of 12 minutes where the users gaze at their ‘Photoboard.’

    A key feature of Focaloid, the Photoboard is envisioned as a place where a user can get snaps and updates from all his (or her) favourite photographers in one place. The interface is built to initiate and encourage discussions among the community, given the ease of following and commenting on photographs. 

    The Editor’s Choice page focuses on the best photographs that are part of Focaloid. Voted for by a select group of expert photographers from the Focaloid community, these photographs are presented in an aesthetically pleasing way that puts the focus on the photographs, than the photographer or advertisements. One scroll across the Editor’s Choice page shows the impression that Focaloid has created amongst the photographing community, given the quality of the shots that one can admire out there. 

    For a photography enthusiast, Focaloid acts not only as a place where he can share clicks and talk to fellow photographers but also get to see the best clicks of like-minded people from around the globe which gives one a great indication on the kind of clicks you can attempt next time around when you go photo-hunting & inspires you to get started with your DSLRs. 

    With a robust and fast-growing community of over 1500 photographers from across the globe, the discussions are more pertinent for a photography enthusiast rather than the wows of a ‘layman’ on social networking sites and helps a photographer work towards improving himself! 

    The attention of the founding team is currently on creating a product that will wow its users than focussing on revenue, the major stumbling block for entrepreneurial ventures today. The team also appears guarded on its future plans for photo-exhibitions, photography tutorials and other possible streams of business that could also generate revenue. 

    Recently incubated through the iAccelarator program in CIIE – IIM Ahmedabad, Focaloid was also selected to the Microsoft BizSpark plus program, which identifies the top start-ups in the technology domain. Given that Focaloid has not just caught the eye of the shutterbug community but also the business world, Focaloid could be the next big thing in the fast evolving world of e-business tomorrow. 

    Sunday, September 23, 2012

    Dhoni or Ganguly: The better captain?

    A cricketing debate these days is incomplete without the inevitable comparison: Dhoni or Sourav Ganguly? Who is the better captain? Who is the better leader?
    Undoubtedly, Dhoni and Ganguly were world class leaders in their own right. Dhoni and Ganguly were both top-class individual players who added their bit to the team, as players as well. But like any other pair, they had their positives and negatives, similarities and differences. Here’s an attempt to analyse their pros and cons! And no, this is not a statistical piece that compares win percentages in India and abroad or batting averages when they were captains!

    Where they differed
    It was in the ability to communicate with teammates in a game like cricket – where team chemistry is of paramount importance. You cannot afford to have two players, especially the captain and a player, at odds with each other as it will affect the fabric of the team at large. The major downside for Dhoni, which has been pointed out by experts time and again, is his inability to communicate properly to a few of his teammates which has led to a feeling of isolation for some. A key example could be the recent incident with Laxman where Laxman confessed that it had been impossible at times to reach out to Dhoni regarding certain issues. This led to a major confusion even during Laxman’s retirement as he was picked for the team despite his plans to retire before the series. On the other hand, Ganguly has always been a sound communicator, a fact that is reiterated by his post-cricketing career choice of being an expert commentator on TV. Ganguly always ensured that he took his team mates into confidence before making any major decision- something that wouldn’t have been possible without his exceptional interpersonal skills.

     A captain is to lead his team mates from the front and his demeanour on and off the field has a major impact on the team. It affects the psyche of the team to a great extent as could be seen with the earlier Indian team who were tigers at home but pussies abroad – an attitude that could be extended to some of the ineffective captains of those days like Sachin Tendulkar, Mohammed Azharuddin etc. There is only a thin line to be crossed between being expressive and being arrogant, and a similar thin line between being cool and composed vs. disinterested. Both Dhoni and Ganguly have tread this thin line of difference and at times have been accused of having crossed over to the other side as well. While Ganguly has always been an expressive leader, who stands up for his team mates on and off the field, Dhoni is the ice-man – the calm and composed leader who never loses his cool under any circumstances. Ganguly has been accused of taking his expressiveness a little too far on the field by expressing displeasure at players on the field. But the same has been used as an effective motivation tool by him to great effect. When you talk of Ganguly and expressiveness, nothing can top the image of Ganguly twirling his shirt on the balcony of Lords which became the image of Indian Cricket till Dhoni rewrote it with his T20 World Cup triumph and later the World Cup 2011 victory. Dhoni, on the other hand, has been at times accused of being too calm that he looks lost and disinterested. It becomes tough for a player to stay motivated and inspired in a situation when defeat is staring at him in the face when his captain looks calm/disinterested. On the other hand, a player also knows that his captain will not admonish him for any mistake that he does, which in a way motivates him to do better in order to pay back the leader’s trust in him.
    Though it would reek of bias to accuse Ganguly of not being a mature leader, it would take a blind person to ignore the rebellious streak either. Ganguly has been a controversy magnet even after retirement! The only positive is that the rest of the team is way from the spotlight as the main attention of the press is focused on him. Dhoni, on the other hand, has slowly culled his rebellious streak that saw him burst on the cricketing arena with coloured long hair and a technique that was the anti-thesis of a purist cricketer then! With passing time, Dhoni did mature. Since then, the way he has handled sticky situations with the press and the board show his growing maturity as a person and a leader. “With great power, comes great responsibility” and in Dhoni’s case, with responsibility, came maturity and a sense of discipline – a marked shift from the rebel with long hair who loved his fast bikes to the married, composed man who handles the music from the demanding press.

    The quintessential characteristic of any leader is the fact that he always rises to the occasion, when his team needs him the most. It is this inherent ability to contribute when all chips are down that acts as the biggest motivating factor to his team – the fact that they know that their leader will rise to the occasion and contribute. A weak leader, who chickens out on the big occasion, will not inspire confidence due to the sheer fact that the team know they cannot bank on him to perform when they need him the most. Dhoni has always risen to the biggest occasions. The innings in the World Cup Final was a shining example of the same or the plenty of knocks under pressure while chasing big totals in important matches. On the other hand, Ganguly presents a sad picture on this front with a tendency to slip away when the pressure is highest. An example would be the sudden injurybefore a crucial test match against Australia at Nagpur. In terms of contributions, one can highlight his dismal show in the final of the 2003 World Cup when the team needed contributions from all players in order to achieve the tall order of winning the trophy. Even if we do not talk of major occasions, Ganguly has failed to contribute much to the team during his tenure as captain, other than with his exceptional leadership and team building skills. Dhoni, on the other hand, has been a strong contributor during his tenure as leader of the team which can be seen from his contribution both as batsman and wicketkeeper during his tenure as captain – a feat that has been matched by few in the world and a feat matched by no one for this long a duration!

    In terms of nurturing talent, which is a major quality for any leader, Ganguly scores a major plus with the quantum of talent that he nurtured in the team like Yuvraj, Kaif, Harbhajan (in his heydays), Zaheer etc. While it could be a little too early to write off Dhoni as he has had his picks in the form of Ashwin, Ojha etc., it can comfortably be said he isn’t a Ganguly when it comes to this either!

    The ability to call a spade a spade is something that many a sportsperson lacks, including the ones who play a role as a leader too. They tend to resort to populism at the cost of reality and end up fooling both themselves and the people who look up to them. While this helps in maintaining the fabric of the team to a great extent, identifying your weakness as a team in public is something that is appreciated by the other stakeholders in the system like fans.

    Where they were similar

    When it comes to personal issues in a team, though, being outspoken is something that is avoidable – which both Dhoni and Ganguly failed at – by bringing forth issues between players in public. Washing dirty linen in public, in such cases, ends up being highly detrimental. The ability to inspire and motivate people to perform better than their best is a special quality that only natural leaders possess. Both Dhoni and Ganguly have been great motivators who have been able to extract game-changing performances from ordinary cricketers. An example of this would be the performance of Joginder Sharma in the all-important last over against Pakistan in the T20 World Cup final or the performances of Rahul Dravid as wicket keeper – a role that he was not a natural talent at. Dhoni was able to inspire the team to punch above their weight during both the T20 World Cup and the 2011 World Cup, leading it to victory. On the other hand, Ganguly was the major reason that India was able to push itself up in the rankings. He was the inspiration behind removing the Indian Team’s reputation as “Tigers at home but Pussies abroad.”

    While a leader is expected to be unbiased an objective, both Dhoni and Ganguly had their own personal favourites and trusted lieutenants during the course of the time they lead the team. While for Ganguly, it was Harbhajan Singh, Mohammed Kaif etc, at the cost of others; Dhoni has been accused of being biased towards Ravindra Jadeja, Joginder Sharma etc.

    The Context
    All said and done, context plays a major role when it comes to making a leader – at times, playing a role more than even the person’s inherent qualities. The years prior to Ganguly’s leadership period were marked by the match-fixing scandal that rocked the entire cricketing world with the mainstays of the previous team – Azharuddin and Jadeja at the centre of the scandal. Life bans for them and a few others led to Ganguly leading the team into a stage of forced transition with a few new players being a part of the team all of a sudden. At the same time, the team was not performing too well either and had suffered humiliating losses at the hands of Australia in 1999. Ganguly lifted the team from this rut with the attitude of a fighter and took it to the cusp of glory in 2003 with the World Cup final appearance. This can be attributed to the determination and the leadership qualities of one man who was able to motivate his players to perform at their best every single time. Dhoni, on the other hand, was bequeathed a talented team in better circumstances. But he brought in the winning mentality that led to a team that choked in the finals of the tournaments triumphing in two of the biggest cricketing tournaments under him and creating history by winning test series’ abroad.

    Both Dhoni and Ganguly were leaders of a kind – having their own merits and demerits. Indian Cricket has been lucky to have them and both played a very significant role in bringing Indian Cricket, where it is today.

    Monday, September 17, 2012

    Indian Premier League: A sustainable ball game for franchisees?

    When Lalit Modi said “Let the games begin”, following a glitz ceremony at Bangalore with superstars of Bollywood in the audience, the luminaries of Indian cricket in the field, the biggest of Indian Corporate Honchos owning teams; no one would have imagined this would be the state of the league five seasons down the line. What started off as a league where money was thrown around is now a league in deep trouble: Two teams (Kochi and Deccan Chargers) have been terminated; One team had trouble paying wages to its players (Royal Challengers Bangalore). Pune Warriors India left the league, and then came back on board after assurances. Not to forget Kings XI Punjab and Rajasthan Royals have had their own set of issues with BCCI as well. The former chairman of the league was ousted and is now living outside the country, and continues to throw allegations at the IPL from time to time.

    Where did things go wrong? Was it the hurry in which the league was conceived as a reaction to Zee’s ICL? Was it the urgency to have something in place that led to a non-sustainable business model for franchisees being put in place? Or was it lack of due diligence in bidding for franchisees that has led to owners being unable to manage their finances with the teams? Was it the auction model that led to a major wage budget for the franchisees despite the wage cap? Or is it just the fact that the holding companies have been having trouble with their core business and has nothing to do with the IPL as such?

    The IPL, when it was conceived was not designed to be a short term money spinner for the investors but promised to be a major revenue generator once the league was well established. But consistent controversies have plagued the league (including those of fixing) that lead to questions about the sustainability of the IPL. The recent bidding for the Deccan Chargers franchisee saw only one interested bidder: PVP – a film production house in Andhra Pradesh. While Videocon was rumoured to be interested, they did not express the same with an official bid. It appears that the days of the sky rocketing team valuations are long gone by, and reality seems to have sunk in about the actual money that IPL generates for a franchisee.

    Why some have got it right
    Undoubtedly, the IPL has been a tremendous money spinner for the BCCI in itself. A few of franchisees like KKR and Chennai have even started making profits according to reports that have been doing the rounds. The success of Chennai can be attributed to the extraordinary spell that the franchisee has enjoyed in the 5 seasons in the league. It has established a solid and loyal fan base in Chennai. Chennai Super Kings have also managed to engage the ‘knowledgeable Chennai crowd’ in a way that no IPL team has managed to do –  a fact that is reiterated by the variety of fan videos that have sprung; flash mobs across the world, team songs etc.

     KKR, on the other hand, prides itself on a strong marketing base that sees ever bit of the value available to be mined, being extracted through endorsements & tie-ups. Kolkata Knight riders also enjoy the unquestionable brand pull of the owner who is none other than the Bollywood Badshah himself.

    Chennai has also maintained the core of the team consistently right from season 1, unlike most other teams, that has led to a greater fan connect – the most important factor for any sport club. Other teams (excluding Mumbai) have consistently chopped and changed their teams that lead to a situation where the non-hard core audience has difficulty in relating to the team. The ‘local’ aspect that was central to the development of the franchisee and the fan connect seems to have gone missing with very few teams having local players who are central to their team.

    What has gone wrong
    BCCI’s initial idea to establish a football like Champions League tournament hasn’t quite succeeded with lead sponsors changing for the Champions League T20, thrice already. There is an imbalance of team strengths in favour of the IPL teams in the Champions League. While other countries send in the winners of their national T20 championships, India is represented by the cash-rich IPL teams (instead of say a Rajasthan or a Tamil Nadu Ranji Team). There have been many situations where players from foreign countries turn up against their own state teams, while playing for their IPL team!

     The establishment of alternate local revenue streams from merchandising, local advertising (other than the central sponsorship pool) has not taken off as expected during the conception of the league. TV Revenue, Central Sponsorship still form the major chunk of the revenue streams for a majority of the franchisees – which makes their sustainability as a stand-alone business for owners questionable. Another unfortunate issue has been the untimely financial issues in the core businesses of a few owners that made the cash-crunching maintenance of the franchisee – a non-starter.

    TRP ratings have fallen (or stabilised based on whether you see the glass half full or half empty) and IPL is no longer the scary entertainment giant that put off movie releases during the summer. The IPL does not seem to be a money making investment for most owners and is more of a ‘pride factor’ – that they own an IPL team. The reputation of the IPL has taken a major hit where fans (and owners?) believe it is more about the partying than cricket or the business.

    What needs to be done
    The IPL needs a fresh format that is not as long drawn out. Playing 76 matches in a span of two months no longer seems the right approach. It causes boredom to the fan and results in a stupendous amount of matches that have no consequence. It needs a format where players are not burnt out and give their best shot in every match.

    IPL will have to reinvent itself, in order to stay relevant to the cricket fan in India. It needs to inject some transparency into proceedings to prevent controversies like the match fixing scandal during the previous season. This is essential in order to appear honest to the fan who watches the games. After all, the IPL and as a proxy, Indian Cricket, cannot afford to lose the fan who is central to the entire business model, due to sheer disillusionment.

    Note: This was first published in here:

    Saturday, September 15, 2012

    Of broken hearts and stunning eyes!

    I climbed up the iconic staircase, trying hard to chase her as she walked away in a huff. My life had always been about chasing her, ever since that moment – that treasured moment when I first saw her. I had always thought it was impossible to find true love at a place with the best brains of the country. After all, beauty and brains are a hard enough combination to find. 

    But the moment I saw her, walking down the lawn dripping with the dew from the previous night, trying not to get her flower-patterned skirt wet; I knew she was the girl for me. The sparkle in her eyes as she tried catching a butterfly that fluttered past her, like a kid and her radiant smile! The smile that I could die for! The first rays of the early morning sun accentuated the glow on her face, and made it all the more striking. How can someone look so appealing in a normal top and a skirt, I wondered. Those eyes! That was the best thing about her. The melange of emotions that her eyes could portray in just a few minutes was incredible.  Those hazel brown eyes that drove me mad from time to time … just like the case today. 

    As I finally caught up with her outside the library, I put my arms on her shoulder only to receive a revolting stare in return. She had always been a staunch challenger of public displays of affection. Though I had always wondered why, I had never mustered the courage to ask her the reasons behind the same. I persisted, and I soon realised I shouldn’t have, as she pushed my hand away and started walking faster. My mind was blank. My deepest fear had always been the possibility of her moving away from me. But I had never imagined it would be because of a fight with me. It was always the thought of her finding someone better looking that drove me mad. A thought that haunted my dreams so much, that I told it to her one day to get it off my back, only to be laughed off by her! After all, why would the prettiest girl on campus want to be with a bumbling guy who was the complete anti-thesis of the perfect guy!

    She had always been the driver of our relationship, right from the beginning. I didn’t mind that either, atleast in the beginning as I did not want to be seen as overly zealous or unbearably dreary. The solitary step I had taken in our relationship so far was to tell her that I liked her. Even this was a step too far for me, as I had to fight off nerves and fever in my fright of being rejected if I told her that I harboured feelings for her. That fright of being friend-zoned or even worse the ignominy of being bro-zoned forever! 

    My old friends had always teased me about the possibility of finding my ‘Ananya’ (with reference to Chetan Bhagat’s Two States); a thought that had never crossed my mind at all, given my eternal fear of even opening my mouth in front of girls. But with her, it was all natural. Frankly speaking, I never had to even talk as she yapped away to glory all the time. She always had an interesting story to say. Always! And I all I had in reply was ‘Hmm! That’s nice’ or the occasional ‘Oh! Wow’. Her stories about her previous relationship, though, were a turn off. But I had always been curious to meet the guy who dumped her. I couldn’t even imagine the thought of that, leave alone thinking of the after-life. 

    But here, it was all unfolding in front of my eyes! She was fast approaching her hostel and once she went in, there was no way of getting her to even talk to me, leave alone mending broken bridges and salvaging the relationship. What could I say that would help me present my side of the case to her! I had never tried to even argue with her. I would always try to skirt over any uncomfortable situation that arose between us, as I did not want to risk things! After all, in any argument with a woman, there is only one winner. 

    I walked behind her racking my brains, thinking what I could do to salvage a lost cause. Even at this point of desperation, I could help admiring her hair from behind. Those velvety tresses which I loved to let my fingers sense! She looked a million bucks today as well. Her slender legs were carrying her as fast as they could towards her destination, but my eyes kept shifting elsewhere, with my vision blurring with tears as reality slowly started to sink in. ‘We’ were no longer a ‘we’. Those walks around the red bricks that helped me retain my sanity would be a thing of the past. The bike rides on the highway with her hugging me from behind would never happen again. Would I even be able to find another girl like her? Even if I did, would I love her as much? More importantly would she love me!

    Alarming thoughts kept crossing my mind, when it all struck me. Why did this never occur to me earlier! …

    Note: This is completely fictional and has no resemblance whatsoever to anyone! This is just the output of a sleepless night, when I was in a heavily 'creative' mood.