Posted by & filed under cricket.

Image used from Cricinfo's website under the Creative Commons license terms.

Image used from Cricinfo’s website under the Creative Commons license terms.

Having successfully destroyed the domestic competition that was once the envy of the cricket universe, Cricket Australia (CA) is now embarking on a mission to destroy the separation of church and state; Church and state that had coexisted quite seamlessly in the sport until now.

Daniel Brettig of Cricinfo writes about how Fawad Ahmed (a 31 yr old Pakistani who sought asylum in Australia and even initiated federal legislation to help play for the national team) was given the choice to not wear gear with the Victoria Bitter (VB) logo as deference to his Islamic beliefs about alcohol. Why CA would do this, I don’t know. By encouraging Fawad’s choice the CA has inadvertently put more focus on the issue and Fawad’s jersey will now be watched as closely as his performance.

Fawad now has to prove himself on the field constantly, answer questions related to his choice on the VB issue and has opened the floodgates for other Aussie cricketers to make requests based on their beliefs. Why should religion be treated differently from, say environmentalism or vegetarianism? Will the flexibility afforded to Fawad be afforded to a cricketer who abhors KFC for their caging of healthy chickens for mass slaughter? Will the flexibility afforded to Fawad be afforded to an environmentalist cricketer who did not want to advertise a gas guzzler every time he walked or ran?

Without thinking this through, CA has put itself in a very tough spot. There are no easy or graceful solutions here on. In a country turning more nativist and radical by the year (if this year’s political campaigns were any proof) CA will have to bend or break the special perk afforded to Fawad. And once they do that, they will have taken the stance that corporation > religion/individual which while being the absolute right choice in this case still leaves plenty of moral issues to deal with. Either way they risk losing 50% of the population on a choice that did not even have to be made before offering one Islamic cricketer some flexibility.

Fawad Ahmed better be a good bowler. A really good bowler. If not, he risks being the answer to the trivia question “Who caused CA to lose 50% of its fanbase by refusing to support beer?” or the slogan for the next great product from down under – FAWAD’s (Australian for not-beer).

fosters

Posted by & filed under NFL.

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1) The Green Bay Packers will not make the playoffs. Brutal schedule, offensive line issues, a historically good NFC and a much improved Chicago Bears roster will all together ensure the Green Bay Packers finish 9-7 or 10-6 and not make the playoffs. This will pain me and frustrate me but will not deter me from watching as many Packers games as possible. Here’s hoping I am really wrong but Go Pack, Go.

2) The Bears and the Lions will make the playoffs – Football Outsiders metrics point out that the 2012 Lions were historically unlucky and due for an adjustment. The Bears have a smart offensive-minded coach who I think will finally get the most out of the phenomenal talent i.e. Jay Cutler. The Packers while deeper will struggle to go 5-1 or 6-0 in the division as they have the last two years.

3) The Philadelphia Eagles will be the most interesting team and also the best NFC East team – Chip Kelly Chip Kelly Chip Kelly Chip Kelly Chip Kelly Chip Kelly Chip Kelly Chip Kelly Chip Kelly Chip Kelly Chip Kelly Chip Kelly Chip Kelly Chip Kelly Chip Kelly :). The football fan in me is thrilled to see a third new innovative and smart coach show up from the Pac-12 and try something different. The Packer fan in me is frustrated to see a third new innovative and smart coach show up in the friggin’ NFC. I think the Eagles win their division and make the playoffs.

4) From the vaunted QB class of 2012, Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III will be part of teams that don’t make the playoffs. Russel Wilson and Brandon Weeden will be.

5) Yes, I predict the Cleveland Browns to make the playoffs and also wagered some money on them winning their division when I made a trip two weeks ago to a state where betting is legal.

6) My predictions for division winners – Seattle, Philly, Detroit, Tampa Bay and Denver, New England, Cleveland, Houston. Wild cards – Chicago, San Francisco, Cincinnati and Buffalo.

7) The Tennessee Titans will finish the season as the worst team in the league and will fire their coach first. I wagered on them finishing under 6 wins.

8) The Dallas Cowboys will finish the season with under 8 wins.

9) The Minnesota Vikings will finish the season under 6 wins.

10) Eddie Lacy will rush for over 1000 yards. Golden Tate will catch over a 1000 yards.

Hold me accountable for these when the season ends :). Until then, football football football!

Posted by & filed under NFL.

Football outsiders

NFL season is here and The annual Football Outsiders almanac available here for just $12.50 and in paperback here for $22.95 is pretty much the only book I read for football stuff. All of the writing is analytical, thought-provoking and written by people who are proficient with both advanced statistics and game tape. More than others on the internet the writers at Football Outsiders take in to account the context of every single play that happens in every meaningful NFL game every year. For example, They weigh a 7 yard run on 3’rd and 11 appropriately by comparing it to the average NFL play in the same situation for that season. They do a great job of identifying garbage time stats, the futility of the term “momentum” in football and the significant causation between a team that is winning comfortably and the ensuing success of their running game.

The writers at Football Outsiders truly respect their audience’s intelligence and have made football watching a far more fulfilling experience for me.

My hope is that those of you who don’t already follow and read Football Outsiders will do so. It is important for future fans of the game that there be fewer Phil Simms and Peter Kings and more Bill Barnwells. So here’s my one service announcement for the month – Please help and support intelligent internet writing by buying and enjoying the content produced by the fine folks at Football Outsiders.

For a taste of what you get when you download the annual Football Outsiders almanac, you can listen to my conversation with one of their writers – Rivers Mccown. Rivers Mccown is one of the many smart writers at Football Outsiders. Rivers is more bullish on the Packers this season than I am and that is one more reason why I am a huge fan of his work. He is also a very strong role model and someone who has withstood tremendous personal adversity (details in the first few minutes of our conversation) to survive and write in a smart and entertaining way on the internet. Rivers and I talk about his growth as a football writer, why he doesn’t think the Bulaga injury will affect the Packers as much as I think it will and why my thoughts on 2013 Packer regression to the mean may not be relevant.

My conversation can be downloaded as a podcast by searching for the “No Sacred Cows’ podcast on your podcast app or from here on Itunes or here on Libsyn. The entire conversation is also transcribed here below –

Please do read/listen and let me know what you think of both the conversation and the Packers 2013 season? And once again please support the folks at Football Outsiders any which way you can!

Interview with Rivers McCown
SHYAM: Hey, is this Rivers?
RIVERS: Yes.
SHYAM: Hey, can you hear me okay? This is Shyam.
RIVERS: Yeah, I can hear you.
SHYAM: Hey. Thanks for doing this. I appreciate it very much.
RIVERS: Sure.
SHYAM: Yeah, I’m a huge Packers fan; originally from India. I have a lot of Packer fans who read my blog and a lot of Indian football fans who read my blog and I’ve been reading Football Outsiders since ’06 I think. And I get an excitement and anticipation for the days before your almanac comes out. And when I see the tweet from Aaron Schatz that says it’s available, I buy it as soon as it comes up and then go to the Packers chapter. I always look at the playoff odds and the mean win prediction you guys do because I almost assume that these are going to play out the way you guys call it. I have a lot of faith in your numbers, so to actually to be able to speak to you I’m very honored and thank you for doing this.
RIVERS: Well, we appreciate your patronage.
SHYAM: So, I had five questions, one of which is modified a little bit because of what happened to Bulaga. But I’ll start off by asking you to introduce yourself a little bit to the blog’s audience and how you started writing for Football Outsiders.
RIVERS: Well, I’m a fan. I used to write for SB Nation; they had a Houston website that I ran and edited for about four or five months and got lucky enough to get picked up by Aaron. I think the big factor in that was that I was a game charter for about three or four years. I guess, I guess like the back story of writing isn’t really very interesting. The back story of Football Outsiders in this thing is that at the time I was trying to get the Football Outsiders job, it was basically my last chance to do anything before I was going to have to, you know, give in and get a retail job or get a Starbucks job or something like that because my parents had both passed away in the past two years before that and I was basically living on my own, and it was a dream come true for me to write for Football Outsiders because like you I’ve been with them, you know, reading their stuff since 2006, since 2004, I had one of the first pro football prospectuses copies in 2003 I think it was. And I always enjoyed their writing and it just all – everything kind of came together at that moment and couldn’t be happier that it worked out the way it did.
SHYAM: Sorry to hear about losing your parents. How many years has it been since you lost both of them?
RIVERS: 2011, so it’s about, it was in January so that was about two-and-a-half years. So then my father was a year before that.
SHYAM: Yikes. Still very fresh I imagine. Sorry about that.
RIVERS: Yeah. Yeah, it’s really, it’s pretty crazy to think about how far we’ve come so.
SHYAM: Well, I’m glad Aaron gave you a chance. You’re not only are you analytical like most Football Outsiders writers, you also write really well. I don’t want to, you know, start reading things you wrote because I want people to go in and buy the PDF or buy the book, but there is a premise on which your entire Packers chapter, which is very interesting and very compelling for any Packer fan who whines. So really well done on that.
RIVERS: Well, it’s kind of a manifestation of just everything I think about when…’cause you know, I like for that to make sometime so the Texan side had a weblog I think and you know, I would spend a lot of time on there and 90% of the comments are just whining and whining about counter-whining and, well, I’m like, this is football, this is supposed to be fun. This is supposed to be something you can lose yourself in and enjoy and it’s supposed to be entertainment. And just spending all your time just worrying and tearing your hair over like the offensive line of the Packers or what the Texans have become, is *** the best quarterback to lead the team and the blah blah blah. No. It’s, if it’s not fun then don’t do it.
SHYAM: Yeah. I’m very familiar with DVOA, Rivers, but I’m not sure everyone is. Can you give a brief intro, like a 30-60 second spiel on what DVOA is. DVOA is the most fundamental method that Football Outsiders uses to base all of their analysis and predictions on. But can you, in your own intelligent voice, give a better intro of the metrics than I just did?
RIVERS: Well, the basic off the cup premise of DVOA is that every play in football has a certain value that you need to get to be successful. Like on first down I think we’ve set it at 40%, and at second down it’s 50% of the yards that you need to get another first down to call successful, and then on third and fourth down of course it’s 100%. So basically every step that we run off DVOA, like VR and that stuff, is just based on what happens on the field, how successful teams are, numerically speaking, and we try to put that into a nice, handy percentage of how much better they are from the average, once it’s adjusted for defenses and schedule, things like that.
SHYAM: Thank you. So that leads me into the Packers chapter in the Football Outsiders Almanac 2013 where you’re projecting, your mean projection says the Packers will win over 10 games and one of the things that surprised me is how bullish your numbers are. I understand these are numbers and I don’t question anything any of the math behind them, but subjectively, just after you write down what the metrics and writing the chapter, did you feel you were a little too bullish? Because, like you mention in the chapter, it’s very rare for a team to finish in the top five in DVOA for four consecutive seasons like the Packers have the last four years, leave alone five consecutive seasons. Any reason why those streaks have been rare? Have you put some thought into that or any analysis behind that?
RIVERS: Well, I think when you get a streak that goes that long, it’s very easy for the system itself to, I don’t want to say fall in love with their team, but you know it’s making sense. Green Bay is a very stable situation and that’s something that DVOA is a big fan of that projects systems looking at Aaron Rodgers being there again for another year, getting back for another year. The parts that get talked out in Green Bay are parts that aren’t really that necessary to a big team anymore. And you know, Charles Woodson and Greg Jennings would be big losses but they were big losses last season. That’s the fact of the matter. They were already lost. So, you know, they’re big names, but as far as predicting future performance, not really that important. As far as how they stack up to teams that have streaks like that; once you get a streak going like that, it usually takes a little more than just bad luck to unfold it. Like with the Patriots, one of the teams that you asked about four-year streak instead of five, the Patriots have actually been I think a top five DVOA team for like eight of the last nine seasons but the reason that they won in 2008 was that Tom Brady you know, lost a whole season to injury basically when Bernard Pollard hit him in the knee. And Cassel who nobody even considered was a great quarterback at this point. Even then, you know, he wasn’t even considered a top prospect, he was an okay guy. And they plucked him in and they still went 10-6, almost made the playoffs. So I guess, statistically speaking, it’s hard for us to really be down on the Packers at all and looking at teams in their situation, even when bad luck befalls them, they still usually tend to do really well.
SHYAM: Gotcha. Can you talk a little bit about their metric adjusted games lost? The fact that the Packers lost a lot of games from their starters last year is one reason why I think their system likes them to have a little bit of a bounce back as far as number of players injured goes. Can you talk a little bit about this metric and whether it is kind of true that teams that lose more than the average number of players one year tend to lose less the next year? Or am I misinterpreting what that metric really means?
RIVERS: Well, just the games lost developed by Bill Barnwell, basically we’re looking at not just the games that have lost but games that are half lost, which is, you know, things we have quantified including when players were probable, doubtful or questionable. You know, it’s just an overall measure to try and figure out how injured a team was. With the Packers last season, you had, you know, Brad Jones was their maybe fourth linebacker coming into the camp and they lost Bishop they lost, somewhere I’m forgetting off the top of my head, but you know he ended up starting at the end of the season. He did so well that, you know, they ended up giving him a big contract after they, after *** started. So not only –
SHYAM: Who are you talking about? Erik Walden?
RIVERS: No, he was outside.
SHYAM: Okay.
RIVERS: I was talking about inside. But basically, we’ve measured you know, ever since two thousand whatever it is we have the data for now, and the Packers are one of the six teams that were most injured of all time in our database. So analytically speaking we did a study on that in the chapter and looked at, you know, the most – the hundred loss, a hundred lost games and they tend to bounce back to about 60 or 70 next year. The Packers are kind of unique in that with Ted Thompson at the helm, they don’t really have to worry so much about losing players because they had kept the stockpile of young talent that is really the envy of a lot of games. Especially positions like quarterback and wide receiver. But, you know – the one reason we’re really optimistic about them is because we like that to bounce back to a normal level and want their defense to shoot up the rankings because of that.
SHYAM: Great. One last question for you, Rivers, offensive line, I know you’re not a big fan of Packer fans *** about offensive line, but I cannot, I cannot not ask you after their planned left tackle for this season and the future is out for the season. Any initial or early talks on the impact this will have to your numbers and predictions?
RIVERS: Well, you know, you look at last season, Jennings wasn’t healthy, you know, he had probably like four or five games I think. Left tackle was a sieve last season. I I know this is kind of blasphemy and one of the reasons we had to kind of cut this out of the book is because I like Bakhthiari. But I really liked David Bakhthiari coming out of Colorado. I thought he had a – I thought he had a good chance to be a starting left tackle in the league. I didn’t think it would happen this season and, you know, obviously, not come right away but I think he has a chance whereas, you know, a lot of, you know, just based on your generic fourth round tackle prospects, I don’t think most of those guys would, you know, be a rather right tackle. You know, I think there are guys who are athletic enough to play left tackle in the league and I think David has a chance of that. So that’s the reason it does it for me. You know, obviously left tackle it is a big deal. It does lower, I guess you would say, the ceiling of the predictions because part of the reason we were bullish on them debating this is because, you know, theoretically gave more protection on the blind side. So I, it’s not a deal that, you know, it’s not going to wreck their season or anything.
SHYAM: Any numbers that show either left tackle’s or o-line’s impact on the running game? I imagine they’re going to try and use their rookie running backs more at least early on. Anything you can share on that front?
RIVERS: Actually, I wrote on ESPN insider page about three or four weeks ago and, even back in 2008 when the running game was better, with, you know, still kind of in his prime, the Packers didn’t run any, you know, run that much more often at all. It was, you know, there were a consistent stream of like a thousand to eleven hundred rushes a season, now that I think about it. But yeah, it’s, you know, they’re not going to change their game plan too much. As far as run blocking, you know, I think he’s much better than, you know, Don Barclay. I think David’s got the agility and the movement to be able to really catch someone off the outside. The power, I think he might even get that one. So I think he might struggle a little bit.
SHYAM: Okay. I’m also glad you pronounced the word sieve as sieve. I think too many people call it sieve and I don’t know where that came from, but I’m glad you said sieve.
RIVERS: (Laughs) Well, as a creative writer it’ll bug me if I did not. (Laughs)
SHYAM: Hey Rivers. Thanks for making time for this. Once again, I cannot recommend this highly enough. If you consider yourself – if you’re listening to this or reading the transcript of this and you consider yourself intelligent and you watch football, please please buy the Football Outsider Almanac 2013 edited by Aaron Schatz and features the Green Bay Packers chapter written by Rivers McCown. Rivers, how can people find you on Twitter?
RIVERS: fo_riversmccown is the account. And @fboutsiders .
SHYAM: And McCown has two Cs after the M, correct?
RIVERS: Correct.
SHYAM: Okay. Thank you again for doing this. I really appreciate what you do. It’s very educational. Makes me so much smarter and I look forward to reading this Almanac and your content for many many years to come. Thanks Rivers. Have a good one.
RIVERS: Great. Thanks for having me.
SHYAM: Bye.
RIVERS: Bye
[END OF INTERVIEW]

Posted by & filed under cricket, Media.

Somewhere in the video vaults of Mr.N.Srinivasan and the power brokers of Indian cricket at the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) there lies an alternate version of the original Spiderman movie. In this version, Peter Parker’s uncle says,”With great power, comes even greater power.”

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Not satisfied with being the big swinging dick of the cricket world, the BCCI decided this weekend to jizz all over those it didn’t care for. And it set special aim on Haroon Lorgat (Chief Executive of Cricket South Africa (CSA)) who the BCCI has deemed enemy #1. Haroon Lorgat and the country whose cricket affairs he manages bore the brunt of BCCI vindictiveness that by the end of Sunday, CSA would have wished the BCCI had just had their way with women and children and been done with it.

You can read numerous media reports about this here, here and here.

But here is what actually happened –

Image of Harron Lorgat courtesy Google Images and under the Creative Commons license

Image of Harron Lorgat courtesy Google Images and under the Creative Commons license

The BCCI dislikes Haroon Lorgat. They really despise him. They tried to influence his election earlier this year and uncharacteristically failed. So ever since then they have been working their puppet strings to emasculate him and those who voted for him as much as possible. First they got together with their Sonny and Michael Corleone (Cricket Australia & England and Wales Cricket Board) to ensure none of the big ICC tournaments over the next decade would be held in South Africa. Then they toyed around with CSA on how many days India would tour the country this December, by not agreeing to even the basic framework of a tour to South Africa. The BCCI took this to a new heretofore unseen level over the weekend by introducing a completely unplanned and unscheduled Caribbean tour of India in November-December and adding days to a February-March tour of New Zealand thus putting themselves in the “difficult” position of playing fewer games in South Africa.

Sachin Tendulkar is two tests away from completing 200 test appearances and it is likely that some coin counter at the BCCI hundi only realized this a week or two ago. Quickly realizing how much of a huge money-spinner this occasion would be for the Board, the BCCI pulled in one of its most pliable partners-in-crime – West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) to participate in a sham of a two test series outside of the Foreign Tours’ Porgram (FTP) agreed to by the 10 full-time member nations of the sport.

Make no mistake, all of this is a win-win-win for the BCCI.

Read more »

Posted by & filed under Indian abroad, Media.

Image courtesy Creative Commons License and www.thehindu.com

Image courtesy Creative Commons License and www.thehindu.com

On the 66’th anniversary of his nation’s independence, noted Chennai-hater and literary prize winner Manu Joseph decided to use the precious real estate of The New York Times for some doodle-y scribbles about the random thought bubbles that occupied the space above his head. The newspaper of record must be going thru some internal strife themselves as they seem to have laid off editors who could possibly have proofread Joseph’s piece of crap before publishing it.

Here are four things about Joseph’s piece that make me wonder if this was part of a thought experiment by him to write when high on alcohol or a drug of some sort –

a) Foolish metaphor for India – More than 400 of the 900+ words of the precious New York Times real estate have been devoted to “Chennai Express” using the movie as a metaphor or analogy for India today. This is the laziest form of writing possible. You can pretty much watch any scene from any movie and interpret that any way you desire. “Bhaag Milkha Bhaag” which is the second highest grossing movie in India this year is the story of a North Indian runner that has been lapped up by Indians worldwide. What does Mr. Joseph think that movie tells us about India?

b) “Yet, what really unites India is, very simply, its habit of being India.” – This is the sort of line that sounds smart in a writer’s head but reads like something Sanjay Dutt would use in an interview with a VJ on one of the thousand cable channels. It is again extremely lazy writing to put words together like this. Replace India with any country in that sentence and it reads the same. right? This is exactly the sort of thing that an editor at a major newspaper website would have caught. Some day The New York Times will be one.

Image courtesy The Creative Commons license and a google search.

Image courtesy The Creative Commons license and a google search.

c) “Its urban affluent are far less extravagant than the rich of Delhi or Mumbai. Its weddings are more subdued than the festivities of the North. Its political corruption is believed to be far less sophisticated, and its real estate prices rise more slowly than in the North.” A long time ago when The New York Times was able to hire respected journalists like Nate Silver and not idiots like Basharat Peer, they required words and sentences in their articles to be factually correct. Apparently this is not a requirement any more as Mr. Joseph runs with the stereotype in his head to make a sweeping generalization that would make fellow NY Times contributor Thomas Friedman very proud. South Indian weddings are more subdued? Real estate prices in Chennai and Bangalore are rising slower than in Chandigarh and Delhi? Again, I wish the New York Times had editors.

d) “All through this film, which is about the mutual incomprehension of the North and the South, basic English is a ceaseless bond between the characters.” Once again with the film. Apparently winning literary awards and making a butt-load of money sitting on his couch does not teach someone a Hindi movie directed by Rohit Shetty starring Shah Rukh Khan made solely to make money is not a friggin’ metaphor for India today. If (Gods forbid) Rohit Shetty had made cricket the unifying factor between North and South India in the movie, Mr Joseph today would have written a 1000 word rant using cricket as the metaphor?

Manu Joseph just wrote an incoherent, flawed and fact-free piece on India today. He just pawned the New York Times and basically got them to publish a third standard essay as their Independence day piece. It is gibberish if you read it in a supermarket tabloid and it is gibberish if you read it in the New York Times.

Happy Independence Day Indians! Let me remind you that you are indeed free to not read Manu Joseph’s tripe.

Posted by & filed under Indian abroad.

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Valerie Wagoner is founder and CEO of Zipdial. Zipdial is a toll-free phone marketing and customer service solution that leverages the fact that most Indians do not pay for incoming phone calls or text messages. It also uses the very Indian concept of a missed call to create new sources of revenue. You can read more about Zipdial and Valerie in this TechCrunch article.

Valerie is an interesting follow on Twitter for anyone who is interested in the startup and innovation scene in Bengaluru and Mumbai. She recently tweeted this

Intrigued by what this hassle was all about and to get a slightly more detailed take from Valerie herself on this topic, I reached out to her via Twitter and email. Thanks to Zipdial and Valerie for their prompt responses! Here below is our email exchange which will hopefully educate all on what the change in taxation rules for foreigners really means to foreigners and foreign companies in India. Please let me know if you have any other questions about this topic?

SHYAM: How much extra work did this tax law change create for Zipdial? Can
you quantify in terms of manpower and time?

VALERIE: ZipDial is an Indian company, so this law had no impact on the company, but it did have an impact on me personally as well as a couple other colleagues as we are foreign nationals living in India. So in our case, it’s more complicated filings on the personal front.

SHYAM: Does this law creative incentives for companies and foreigners to
earn their income in their home country or other Asian countries
rather than earn income in India?

VALERIE: Keep in mind that credits to avoid double-taxation still exist, so hopefully this doesn’t create a bigger tax burden, just more cumbersome paperwork. There are many factors affecting where people decide to live and therefore earn their income and taxes is just one of them. That said, changes like this certainly don’t make it any more attractive for people to make the kind of move I made to India nearly six years ago.

SHYAM: Why do you think this law came about now?

VALERIE: I do not want to speculate on behalf of the Regulator, but keep in mind that in addition to revenue reasons for tax law changes, in a country like India, there is also high consideration for security reasons. For example, every year as a foreigner living in India, I have to renew my police-verified Residential Permit which confirms who I am, where I live, and why I’m in the country. While it’s a painful annual process, it is driven by security reasons. Similarly, knowing how and where foreign nationals residing in India are making money could provide information for security purposes in addition to tax

SHYAM: I know Zipdial recently started operations in Sri Lanka. Does this
new tax law make you want to move more of your office space and human
resources there?

VALERIE: There is no impact. We are an Indian company, based in India, and employing nearly all Indian citizens. For many reasons, we know that Singapore is a future destination for the company headquarters as we continue to expand into Asia, but that move would happen anyway for many other reasons, not because of this law change.

SHYAM: Thank you for the prompt response to my email questions. Really appreciate it.

VALERIE: no problem and happy to help!

Posted by & filed under cricket, Indian abroad.

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Rohan Chandran is one of the original guys behind Cricinfo. He has been in the Bay Area for 20 years and lives at the intersection of technology, cricket and Silicon valley. He is now an entrepreneur and truly one of the most interesting people I have come across. I recently caught up with him on a beautiful California evening to discuss his time at Stanford, the future of technology in cricket, the legendary Indian cricketer Noel David and the state of cricket in San Francisco and the Silicon Valley. The 20 minute conversation is available as podcast and is downloadable via Itunes or any podcast apps you have from the feed here or URL here –

http://nosacredcows.libsyn.com/webpage

You can also search for No Sacred Cows on your podcast app. Please do subscribe to the podcast?

The conversation is also embedded below and transcribed here in its entirety. Please do listen/read and let me know what you think?

[soundcloud url=”http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/103304459″ iframe=”true” /]

Conversation with Rohan Chandran

SHYAM: I have with me today, Rohan Chandran. Welcome to the show Rohan.
ROHAN: Pleasure to be with you Shyam.
SHYAM: Thank you. I first heard about you when you wrote the post for Cricinfo’s twentieth anniversary celebration.
ROHAN: Right.
SHYAM: It was a – it was a very detailed post and took me back in time before the internet was what it is today. And then I listened to you on the Cricket Couch podcast.
ROHAN: Fantastic.
SHYAM: I’m not sure everybody my – in the audience here knows about you, so why don’t you just tell a little bit about yourself.
ROHAN: Sure. And I think the post you’re referring to is, I was one of the group that initially started Cricinfo back in 1992, 93. And you know, I think for all of us it was, it was a labor of love. And to some extent we got to live our dream and you referenced Subash Jayaraman’s cricket couch podcast and he’s another guy who is a great example of living the dream as a fan of cricket just converted into a professional reporting on and writing on the game, and it was a wonderful experience. You know, I’ve been in the Bay Area 20 years – I came out here in 1992 to Stanford and you know my big concern was where am I going to get information on cricket and you know people can listen to that podcast or read the Post for the details but it was out of that desire for myself and a bunch of other people who Cricinfo eventually formed and you know became what it is today.
SHYAM: Awesome. You work in technology and that’s what you’ve been doing for a long time, right?
ROHAN: That’s right. So I was a computer science major undergrad and masters at Stanford and I’ve been in the tech industry in various forms over the last 15-20 years in the Bay Area. And you know, always as part of the Silicon Valley community.
SHYAM: Okay. I should add to the audience that I am speaking with Rohan on a cricket field right by Stanford University. People might be able to even hear the sound of bat on ball. I see more bowlers than batsman today. Is that usual or uncommon?
ROHAN: Well, we have one net so you’re limited to one batsman at a time. You know, this is something we do. We practice every Wednesday, Friday, and Saturdays if we don’t have a game. There’s a very active league in the Bay Area. In fact, when I came out to Stanford in 1992, before I accepted the offer, the first thing I did was call up the university, ask if there was any active cricket around, spoke to the then president of the cricket club, made sure I was going to be able to play cricket regularly, and only then did I say okay yeah I’m going to come to Stanford.
SHYAM: What – what would you have done if he said no? Have you thought about that?
ROHAN: I was always planning to go to the UK.
SHYAM: Okay.
ROHAN: And –
SHYAM: You wouldn’t have had the problem there.
ROHAN: – further my studies there. So I – I wouldn’t have that, I didn’t have that as a concern. But you know when Stanford came up, it’s one of those opportunities you got to take seriously.
SHYAM: Yeah.
ROHAN: And thankfully there was cricket and I’m very grateful for that.
SHYAM: Good to know. Good to know. So one of the things I wanted to ask you about was, you started – you’re one of the early people behind Cricinfo. But you did that while you were in college, right?
ROHAN: That’s right.
SHYAM: How did you balance that? I used to take like three courses and still flunk.
ROHAN: So –
SHYAM: I mean, how did you do that?
ROHAN: Interestingly, the question should be not how did I balance that but did I balance that? And the answer is, not quite at times to be perfectly candid. So there were definitely struggles. There were courses which I had to, you know, defer doing final exams and papers for until the next quarter and make up the grades and there were times when I struggled through it because in the early days of Cricinfo, and you know we were doing this out of passion with no concept of what we were really doing, but I was spending all night in a mechanical engineering lab listening to commentary, and by the time morning came around I was finished. So paying attention in class is and everything else was the furthest thing from my mind. You know, fortunately, Stanford even back in the day had a lot of classes on tapes. You could go to the library and watch the video later of the lecture and catch yourself up. But I think it’s – there’s no doubt that had Cricinfo not been there, my grades would have definitely been higher than they were.
SHYAM: Interesting. So you think that your computer science background and your computer science courses helped you a lot with Cricinfo or what percentage would you say?
ROHAN: They did and they didn’t. So I was a tech neophyte when I came here. I had no concept of the internet and very little of consumers. You know, I taught myself basic as everyone else did back in the day but that was about it. I think what had helped with a lot of us involved was to start to think about what was possible and understand that there were no boundaries imposed on us and we could develop stuff that maybe no one had thought about yet. And it was more of that motive thinking and that’s – you know that’s part of the Silicon Valley spirit I guess that I think was more critical. In fact, if you look back at Cricinfo in the early days, we were behind the times technologically in a lot of ways, you know we didn’t even use databases, everything was flat file based and so and so. It took us a long time to catch up in a lot of senses. I think I mentioned in the blog post that when the first browser came about, it was a massive internal debate as to whether this web thing was something worth pursuing or you know Gopher was good enough and IRC. And you know some of us were, some of the group were not in favor of going there but we did it and you know obviously it was a pretty solid decision at the end of the day.
SHYAM: Gotcha. You spoke about how you did not even know how this was gonna turn out and you had a certain vision and you just went with it, had some fun with it, and it almost accidentally has evolved into the interface and the product it is today. Is that accurate? Is that what you –
ROHAN: Yes and no. I mean, it – we didn’t have some great plan that we set out and you know chopped off milestones one off –
SHYAM: You didn’t have a program manager or a project?
ROHAN: Absolutely not. Right? And we were all over the world and just things evolved as they, you know, it was natural evolution in a lot of ways. At the same time, you know, what we were good at was when we saw something working or saw opportunity, we did go after it well and you know Simon deserves a lot of credit for really formalizing the concept, reaching out to the ICC, and putting those deals in place, you know we were official coverage of the 1996 World Cup was one of the most critical milestones in ramping the audience up because it was the internet had taken off at that point and this was the only way to watch what was going on during that World Cup was through Cricinfo.
SHYAM: Awesome. I was gonna ask this later, but it kind of segues nicely from where we are. Looking at Cricinfo today, can you visualize – I think you answered this in Subash’s podcsast but maybe you can add to it or maybe just repeat the answer for those who haven’t had an opportunity to hear that. Can you visualize something that they can add on to grow – they’re already a behemoth, you know, I don’t even know how many page views they get, but it must be in the tens of millions.
ROHAN: Yeah, I mean it’s a phenomenal service today. I think a lot of what’s happened is, and you know rightly so, I don’t wanna suggest this is not a good move, they’ve gone down the journalistic road and it’s become the media source for cricket. I – you know as a cricket tragic myself, the data angle is always exciting to me and I think in this era of big data, there’s probably a lot more that cannot be unleashed there, especially when you start thinking about video and so on. In fact, you know I had a start-up a couple of years ago and it didn’t pan out in the end. And then we were doing basically breaking down video content and so on and cricket became one of the sports we looked at. It wasn’t necessarily focused on cricket and the ability to go in and say okay show me all Sachin cover drives from 1992 onwards and to be able to play that in sequence, or any kind of esoteric combination that you could see where, you know, where we live in an ear of bite size consumption right and YouTube and everything else is great testament to that. And I think Cricinfo needs to, it would be great to see it find its way into that angle because I think right now it’s all about the live scores. Rightly so, but you know, I come home at the end of the day and Cricinfo is part of the ESPN now and what I’d love to do is be able to watch half an hour of condensed highlights but of the stuff that interests me because I’m not necessarily interested in just the four sixes and wickets. But there might be passages of play which were interesting and if I can extract that kind of thing out of Cricinfo I think it would be a great step forward.
SHYAM: I’m pretty sure that international teams probably have that facility right now. I don’t know how public they’ll make it –
ROHAN: Absolutely. It’s a regular thing in the coaching circles and many sports utilize that in a lot of ways and sports mechanics. I think Anil Kumble is involved in a company that does this as well.
SHYAM: Yeah. I can’t imagine Andy Flower doesn’t have everything that everyone in the English court has played since like –
ROHAN: Absolutely.
SHYAM: – they were born. I’m pretty sure.
ROHAN: And these days software has that kind of power. In fact, you know, there are apps like CricHQ which I use which is out of New Zealand, I think Steven Flemming and others are involved there, and you can score all our local games and you know we had a tournament here, the Northern California Cricket Association had a big T20 tournament over July 4th, everything was scored live on CricHQ, you can track the wagon wheels and you can break it down player versus player – so that analysis and power is available to everyone and it would be great to see Cricinfo –
SHYAM: Embrace that, yeah.
ROHAN: You know, every user is not gonna go into the data junkie and manipulate themselves, but the more they can do to bring that to the forefront in the right way, I think the better.
SHYAM: Yeah, I think you’re right. I think I know of thousands of people who spend any free time they get on stats guru –
ROHAN: Absolutely.
SHYAM: – doing you know the most banal stuff imaginable. I can only imagine that the same audience, a large portion of them, will transfer to –
ROHAN: Absolutely.
SHYAM: – doing anything with video. I actually feel, you know I missed Ashton Agar innings a couple of weeks ago.
ROHAN: Great example.
SHYAM: That happened when I was asleep. And when I woke up, I think I would have loved to have clicked on his strokes. You know, just the boundaries –
ROHAN: That’s right.
SHYAM: – just the how he got the way he did. That would have been a great thing.
ROHAN: And actually you know Willow TV is doing a little bit of that with their interactive. I think have done a great job of bringing that together. But you know all this needs to be sort of cohesive and coherent in one place and I think Cricinfo has an opportunity –
SHYAM: Yeah. No –
ROHAN: – ESPN to do that.
SHYAM: Yeah, they have the resources to –
ROHAN: That’s right.
SHYAM: – pull something like that off. The next question I had for you was, you work in technology, you work very closely with you know cutting edge products, cutting edge, I saw your profile and you’ve worked on scaling, you’ve worked on you know innovation, so I’m intrigued. But having been in the Silicon Valley for 20 years, what are some of your favorite and least favorite cricket technologies. It can be either products or just broad concepts.
ROHAN: Sure. So I think at a high level I’m really impressed and I love what Hawk Eye have done and the way that’s continuing to evolve, right? So, qualms about the DRS aside which can be a whole other podcast you can do –
SHYAM: Yeah.
ROHAN: – I think it’s mind-blowing to me to think these were debates which we used to have as fans just 10 years ago over every decision and every four. And the fact that I can now go and look at every single delivery of every single game as you’ve said, and understand what pitched where, where it was going, how decisions are working and that influence of technology in the game, you know again there are DRS rules and policy issues that may be there but I think it’s phenomenal for the game to have leveraged that. The other side, you know, I referenced the app CricHQ and the fact that I can score a game on my iPhone or Android device while I’m umpiring the game in our local league and have you know wagon wheels and pitch maps and all that information available as a casual cricketer playing social club cricket. It’s mind-blowing, right? And this is – this is the age we live in as I said –
SHYAM: Yeah.
ROHAN: – right? Who could envision that you and I could be having this conversation with a little phone in your hand –
SHYAM: Yeah.
ROHAN: – at a cricket field at Stanford, right?
SHYAM: Yeah.
ROHAN: No one would have thought – they would have laughed us off the field 10 years ago –
SHYAM: Easily.
ROHAN: – if we said this would be happening.
SHYAM: Yeah, yeah. Any other technologies that you like? Any other products you like? Anything in gear or when you watch the games, do you watch other sports? Anything you think cricket can pick up from other sports?
ROHAN: Yeah, I mean it’s interesting. Cricket is trying a lot of things with you know the spider cam they have and when I was in Australia last year they had these drones flying around the ground, you know for angle shots, and you have players marked out. I think there’s a lot of gimmickry coming in which may be a bit too far. We have the flashing boundaries and the flashing bails –
SHYAM: Bails, Australia.
ROHAN: – when bails hit. So, you know, I’m always concerned that it’s just going a little too far and –
SHYAM: Yeah.
ROHAN: – you look at Australia’s performance in the Ashes and a lot of people are raising that question, have we gone too far down the road of flash and is there the pure element of the game that still needs to be at the core of it? And you see that in every sport, right? You know, sports like tennis have embraced technology, but in a very limited fashion you watch soccer and they’ve been debating for years, should we have goal line technology –
SHYAM: Yeah.
ROHAN: – and so –
SHYAM: And baseball’s really bad. Like, they are okay with you know even big games being lost on umpire errors without – which makes no sense to me but, yeah.
ROHAN: That’s right. And it’s, I think this progress has to happen in all sport –
SHYAM: Hm-hmm.
ROHAN: – and you know the technological power we have and the ability to compute things in real time. I mean I think you will see eventually right with the DRS real-time corrections of decisions being issued. That may be another five years away but I think that’s where it’s gonna get because I think one of the big criticisms is you know you have to then go and check for the camera angles and there’s a five-minute delay last ball of the game –
SHYAM: Hm-hmm.
ROHAN: – as we saw in the Lord’s test and it takes away the tension and excitement of the sport, so.
SHYAM: Hm-hmm. One of the big buzz words in the Silicon Valley right now is wearable technology. You know, I hear that everywhere. I still don’t know what all that means but I – the more I’m hearing it, I feel like it’s coming down the pike in the next 12 months.
ROHAN: So, I mean soccer for example has been using that usually, right? If you look at English premier league clubs –
SHYAM: I’m not familiar with soccer that well.
ROHAN: – so they’re wearing GPS trackers all the time.
SHYAM: Oh really?
ROHAN: And even after the game you know exactly who has walked, run, how much and how much they went backwards, sideways, every position they were in is mapped on the field at the end of the day. So it’s definitely starting to happen in sport. I know in cricket I think it may have been in the big bash in Australia in each game I think they had one player you know wired up with heart rate monitors and –
SHYAM: Hm.
ROHAN: – stuff like that. And the umpires have been wired up. So I think there’s experiments in that direction. If any of your listeners have ever heard the Twelfth man series by Billy Birmingham, if you’re a cricket fan, I strongly recommend this, he does a satire and all the Channel Nine commentators and it’s one guy. He does all the voices and everything and it’s a wonderful parody. And he, you know, some of the concepts he parodies there are, you know, batsman wearing helmet cameras and something called the protector cam which is worn on the box, you get a view if the batsman gets hit in the nether regions and so on. So he parodies that, but I think the amazing thing is we’re starting to see that come in. And as I said, it’s there in other sport so I would expect to see this wearable technology come in to cricket. Again, I think to your point earlier which some of the, you know, data technology, it may be more a coaching and sports science thing to begin with but I think Channel Nine and guys like Sky are absolutely gonna bring that to the consumer as well, right? And you know, you’ll start to know how much people are perspiring and therefore how much, how is that affecting the shine of the ball and you know who’s feeling tense at this moment you know when they’re on 99 and so on. And I think it will be fascinating for consumers to really understand. Commentators will always talk about, okay he’s in the nervous 90’s, is he nervous? ‘Cuz sometimes you watch a guy and you’re like he doesn’t look nervous at all, right? This guy’s cool. And then you see the next guy and you know he’s just really worried where the next run will come. So I think there will be a lot of fabulous insights that will come from that.
SHYAM: Yeah, I’m old enough to remember that in the first game of the 99 World Cup, Hansie Cronje when playing versus India actually had an earpiece and the –
ROHAN: That’s right. A lot of controversy over that.
SHYAM: There was so much controversy. I think he had to remove it by the eight over or something.
ROHAN: That’s right.
SHYAM: Now it looks like if someone did that now, I think people would look at him more like, that’s cool, that’s innovative, rather than something scandalous.
ROHAN: Absolutely. And you know we’ve seen in the big bash –
SHYAM: Yeah.
ROHAN: – they were having conversations in the –
SHYAM: Yeah.
ROHAN: – middle of the game and the guy is standing crouched down at first slip and the commentators, you know, intelligent people that they are, while the bowler is running up to bowl, they’re asking a question.
SHYAM: Yeah, yeah.
ROHAN: And I think there was one where it might have been *** and he actually told them, no it was Angelo Matthew I think and he told them to please wait until after the bowl is delivered. But yes, so we’re absolutely heading in that direction.
SHYAM: Yeah, I think we’re going in that direction. I have two more quick questions Rohan.
ROHAN: All right.
SHYAM: So, a large portion of my blog’s audience is either trying to come to the Bay Area or is based out of the Bay Area. So having been a veteran of this, what should a cricket fan who wants to play cricket, watch cricket, stay in touch with the game but moves to the Bay Area for good, what should he or she do?
ROHAN: So the great news is they are in or coming to one of the best regions in this country for cricket. First of all, the weather is such that we have cricket year round. We have a full league in the summer, it’s the Northern California Cricket Association of which I am one of the directors, and we have about 35 teams playing 50 over cricket, you know, color clothes and white ball we just switched to this season and that’s from pretty much April through October.
SHYAM: Wow.
ROHAN: And you know the Stanford team practicing here; we’re actually currently you know topping the top division here and hoping for our first championship this year.
SHYAM: Best of luck.
ROHAN: In the winter league we have a T20 competition. There’s actually parallel T20 competition in the summer as well and there’s another 30 teams involved in that. So there’s a lot of active cricket. There’s also a lot of youth cricket. So, I mean right behind you here there’s a couple of guys who have played for the U.S. under 19 or on the fringes of the U.S. National Senior Squad.
SHYAM: Wow.
ROHAN: So there’s some serious good cricket going on here. Our facilities are not what you would call world class. You know, grounds are not purpose built for cricket so we’re making do with school grounds and city parks and we put a pitch in the middle. But yeah, if anyone goes to ncalcricket.org it’s the Northern California Cricket Association site. You know, if you’re in the South Bay, Stanford Cricket Club is, you know, we’ve got our practice facility on campus and nice grounds that we play on. And we’re always looking for new people. And whether it’s for your children, I think from the age of seven or eight we have great programs. Guys like Ajit Tendulkar, Sachin’s brother, actually come in every summer and coach in the Bay Area. And we have a lot of first class cricketers from India and elsewhere coming in and coaching and there’s, you know, tours around the country, tours to England and India that happen. So it’s, it’s shockingly active actually.
SHYAM: Yeah. I was not aware of half the things you said. That’s –
ROHAN: And that’s exactly it. And you know we’re trying now to get the word out a lot better. We’re getting more active in social media. We had a big tournament on July 4th and we’ve been having a tournament the last couple of years, the T20 tournament. The last couple of years we had, it was modeled on the IPL and we actually had a player auction from across the U.S. –
SHYAM: Ooh, nice.
ROHAN: – and you know a whole, the auction the was webcast live and know teams were bidding on players and all of that. This year it was an open entry tournament. $20,000 prize and we had two grounds and 6 teams and guys like Ricardo Powell, former West Indies player, and a few other West Indian and Indian players from the IPL coming and participating as well.
SHYAM: Wow.
ROHAN: So it’s a great turnout, great event that the Northern California Cricket Association put on and there’ll be one or two of those such events every year. So as spectators and so on, there are opportunities for people to also come and get involved. We have a great ground in Morgan Hill which is a little south of San Jose for those who don’t know. And there’s a whole set of wineries down in Morgan Hill and a gentleman named Rufkan, he was a founder of Kovad, a DSL company back in the day, and with what he made from Kovad he actually bought a winery there, excavated half the vines, and put in two cricket grounds, you know, the most beautiful outfields you’ll find is one of *** the wine tasting going on, it’s a wonderful place to go and spend a day to play or to watch and, you know, as you’re wine tasting, you can take in some cricket. And to your point, but who would have thought that in the Bay Area –
SHYAM: Yeah.
ROHAN: – that all this is going on. And it’s testament to the immigrant population that has come in. Especially over the last 20 years –
SHYAM: Yeah.
ROHAN: – the Indians in particular have dominated. When I first came to Stanford it was really fascinating, I joined the team here and we literally had 11 different nationalities in an 11 man team. So I think cricket has become more Indian dominated now which is – it’s a reality of the Bay Area. It’s a little unfortunate. It was great when we had a lot of Australians and New Zealanders, English men, West Indians and so on involved. There’s still a smattering of other countries, but you know, India dominates the valley now along with China and there’s not a lot of cricket coming out of China so it’s –
SHYAM: In that team you said which had 11 players from 11 nationalities, was the best baller still a Pakistani or –
ROHAN: We had, the one Pakistani we had was a solid outswing baller but not quick.
SHYAM: Okay.
ROHAN: To nail the stereotype.
SHYAM: Yeah. So Northern California Cricket Association.
ROHAN: Yes.
SHYAM: Is that what someone would have to Google –
ROHAN: Yeah. If you look that up you’ll find it.
SHYAM: All the details.
ROHAN: Find us on Facebook as well.
SHYAM: And the Morgan Hill ground is detailed there?
ROHAN: It’s part of that and there’s a whole bunch of grounds in Santa Clara. We use Ortega back in Sunnyvale, we have on in San Jose, we have a beautiful ground in Marin in the North Bay north of the Golden Gate Bridge and a bunch in the East Bay, so it’s scattered all over the Bay Area.
SHYAM: Something for everyone right over there?
ROHAN: So wherever you are, there is a team or a club around you that’s playing cricket.
SHYAM: Nice.
ROHAN: And a whole lot of them are heavily involved in youth cricket development for your kids as well, so.
SHYAM: Nice. Last question. Thanks for your time.
ROHAN: Sure.
SHYAM: You’ve done a lot. You’ve done a lot in the world of technology and in the world of cricket. When are you gonna bring an international game to the Bay Area? I would love to watch, even if it’s a BBL game –
ROHAN: Some, it’s likely to happen, and it’s happened in the past so India has played on the Stanford campus.
SHYAM: When was this?
ROHAN: In, it was a year before I came. And you heard *** and all those guys playing on the Stanford campus. You know we have guys like *** who’s heavily involved in our league. We have a few ex-rungie cricketers who have played from time to time.
SHYAM: Is Noel David involved in cricket here?
ROHAN: Noel David played in L.A.
SHYAM: I feel like – oh okay not here.
ROHAN: So we have a lot of guys like that that play in L.A. and we have an annual series between Northern California and Southern California. L.A. has, by the way, fantastic facilities for cricket. So their story, to tell it quickly, is when L.A. had the Olympics in 1984, there was a club called The Hollywood Cricket Club which was founded by I think Aubrey Smith who was a great actor and a cricket fan from England. And the city wanted to I believe take over their grounds for the equestrian event. So in return the city provided them a cricket facility at Woodley Park. There are four adjacent grounds, natural turf crickets, maintained by the city for a nominal fee. It’s about 10 years ago and you’ll find these videos on YouTube. India A and Australia A played –
SHYAM: I remember that series, yeah, and they started the games in sanely early so that they could accommodate the Indian viewers on AXN or something like that.
ROHAN: That’s right. And you had VVS Laxman and Brett Lee and guys like that –
SHYAM: Yeah. I remember the pictures were pretty substandard though.
ROHAN: That was, that is the problem because we don’t have that expertise for natural turf cricket so the, the only international cricket we’ve had recently in the U.S. is in Florida where they have a purpose built stadium and they’ve had New Zealand, West India, and Sri Lanka I think play there. There is hope that the Bay Area will be a venue. I think you may have read that there’s a lot of talk about bringing a T20, national T20 tournament that’s ICC sanctioned –
SHYAM: Yeah.
ROHAN: – you know, I don’t want to dive into this, there’s a lot of politics –
SHYAM: Got it.
ROHAN: – in U.S. cricket and there’ a lot of history of murkiness –
SHYAM: Yeah.
ROHAN: – shall we say?
SHYAM: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
ROHAN: And that effort has started but I’m hopeful we’ve got a new CEO at the U.S.A. Cricket Association and I’m hopeful maybe this time things will be different.
SHYAM: Yeah.
ROHAN: And that will happen.
SHYAM: Yeah, I cannot believe that there is not a market for any two teams that play either, you know, domestic T20 level competition or international competition, or even a warm-up game, you know. Have whichever team’s touring West India, have them play a four-day game or a three-day game against, you know, whoever. I feel like there is –
ROHAN: Absolutely.
SHYAM: – gonna be an audience for that.
ROHAN: I think the opportunity –
SHYAM: I will take off work for that.
ROHAN: That’s right. There’s opportunity. I grew up in Hong Kong and we used to have teams either on the way to Australia or on the way to England from Australia. They would always stop off in Hong Kong, play a couple of games, and you know, phenomenal opportunity for the locals right? You get to play cricket with these guys and/or watch them play and, you know. I think there are a lot of people who have that desire to bring that to the Bay Area and, you know, I’m hopeful that with a lot of the folks who have started tech companies and so on, there’s a lot of potential for support for that sort of initiative.
SHYAM: Yeah. Awesome. Thank you very much. You’re a very interesting person in the cross section of Silicon Valley and cricket and your life story. And I really appreciate you making time for doing this. Thank you very much.
ROHAN: Well, thanks Shyam. Pleasure talking to you.
SHYAM: Thank you.
ROHAN: Thank you.
[END OF INTERVIEW]

Posted by & filed under cricket, Indian abroad, Media.

“When you sit down to write, there is only one important person in your life. This is someone you will never meet, called a reader”, Former Guardian science editor, letters editor, arts editor and literary editor Tim Radford.

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This is the blog’s 100’th post. I thought this would be a good time to share with you (the reader and the only important person) some stats about the blog, its readership and the motivation behind my writing. I also wanted to use my 100’th post to revisit why I do this in the first place and to express my gratitude to those who have stopped by and spent any of the precious minutes in their day on this blog.

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Posted by & filed under cricket.

Image courtesy Getty Images under the Creative Commons license

Image courtesy Getty Images under the Creative Commons license

Cricket teams rarely become good overnight. They take steps. They take a step. And then they take the next step. The confluence of talented players, intelligent coaches, luck and the best laid plans help teams get better. Allan Border and Steve Waugh speak fondly of the ’86 tour to India and how big a step that was in the country’s evolution from pushover to world-beater. Mark Taylor looks back at the otherwise miserable tour to India in ’98 and how the lessons learned made the Aussies a formidable opponent even in subcontinent conditions for the next decade.

For the Indian cricket team which had muddled thru two decades of mediocrity away from home, 13 July 2002 was a seminal moment and a day when they took a huge step. On that day, a generation of Indian cricketers helped the country and a fan-base conquer the dual demons of chasing scores and playing away from home in a dazzling and spectacular manner. To a generation that is used to Dhoni escapades like the one from last Thursday, it wasn’t always like this. Once upon a time, India were bad chasers and the fan-base dreaded a chase that involved Sachin getting out early.

Image courtesy Getty Images under the Creative Commons license

Image courtesy Getty Images under the Creative Commons license

To truly quantify the size of the demons we are dealing with here, some cruel numbers need to be revisited. In the period between the 1996 World Cup and the 1999 World cup, India in ODIs still relied heavily on the bat of Sachin Tendulkar. Ganguly was starting to be Ganguly but India were still losers more often than they were winners when chasing targets. In a four year span, against teams not named Zimbabwe or Bangladesh, India only had two wins chasing when Sachin failed to score 50. Also, between January 31’st 1999 (when this happened) and July 13’th 2002, India lost NINE successive ODI finals. Five of those defeats were while chasing. Cometh the big game, choketh the side it seemed like.

So when on July 13, 2002 in the final of a triangular ODI tournament, Nasser Hussain and Marcus Trescothick blunted and decimated the Indian attack en route to England’s highest 50 over score ever, Indian fans like me had that sense of deja vu that only a tormented fellow fan would understand. And when India after a brisk start lost five wickets for 40 runs including that of one Mr. Tendulkar (clean bowled Giles),the deja vu turned into fatalism and a why-us diatribe to the cricket gods. I even turned the TV off or ran away from it. I think.

Thank the gods that the protagonists were not as fatalistic as their fans. Heroes of past Under-19 world cups, two fearless 20 year-olds decided that Lord’s was no place for history to supersede the future. In a partnership of the ilk that appears fairly often now but was then rare, Mohammed Kaif and Yuvraj Singh pooh-poohed any possible mental or emotional baggage. Buoyed by an aggressive captain who backed his players to the limit and a coach and structure that had planned for this very situation (turning Dravid into the wicket keeper just weeks prior to extend the batting order to 7-deep) the two turned the game on its head.

I started watching from the 35’th over onwards. I watched every run and every ball after that. The India fan in me that had been beaten to death by years of futile and failed chases kept the reverse-jinx tone one. “Won’t last”, “Eyewash” and “England will win” accompanied every run scored. The cricket fan in me that sensed talent and special moments kept telling me that this was incredible history I was witnessing. Deep inside I knew the cricket fan was right. On the outside I pretended to possess reverse jinxing superpowers.

Yuvraj’s dismissal woke up the reverse jinxer loudly but Harbhajan’s eventual fearlessness and Kaif’s crisp driving kept the awe alive. The massive Indian contingent that would eventually piss off Nasser Hussain was rocking and with 12 needed off 13 every Indian fan knew this was make-or-break. The cursed chasers of the past two decades carried it over to the new millennium? Or was this team going to finally point out to the world that chasing was just another thing.

Image courtesy Getty Images under the Creative Commons license

Image courtesy Getty Images under the Creative Commons license

Kaif and Zaheer would win with three balls to spare. The eventual euphoria was drowned out by the enormous relief. Kaif’s dad would be the toast of the news media for being one of the reverse jinxer fatalists and missing his son’s most glorious moment for a Shah Rukh Khan potboiler and Saurav Ganguly would take his shirt off. In one afternoon, a run chase would destroy years of pent-up defeatism and a fan base would never fear chasing targets as much. In the years to follow, outside of a traumatic World cup 2007, India built on their new found fearlessness and team after team chased down many an impressive score in every form of the game.

But for those who endured nightmarish losses in Colombo, the Caribbean and Calcutta among many other venues and for a generation that believed a chase was over when Sachin got out, that London evening will forever be etched as the day India learnt to chase.

Posted by & filed under Indian abroad, Travel.

Taipei, Taiwan is an extremely hospitable city. It is a great city to be a tourist in even if you can’t speak a lick of Mandarin. The people are friendly, public transport is omnipresent and there’s plenty of Starbucks to sort out any cultural or lingual doubts. However it is not an easy place to be a vegetarian in, Starbucks included. In spite of a sizeable Buddhist population, the city does not lend itself well to vegetarians. Thanks to some very good local hosts though, I managed to find four uniquely vegetarian friendly restaurants that I savored and highly recommend the next time you are in Taipei.

Here are those four –

a) Pizzeria Oggi Pizzeria Oggi is a must-visit whether you are a vegetarian or not. The restaurant is casual, inviting and smells like Italy. It is located in the busy Shihlin district (9 Dexing W. Rd. Shihlin District, Taipei, Taiwan).

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A massive kiln and an open kitchen occupy center-stage as patrons get to smell the fresh dough, the basil leaves and the tomato sauce. There are plenty of vegetarian options on the menu and the food is also packed immaculately for those tourists wanting to take the pizza back to their hotel room as an accoutrement to their pay-per-view entertainment.

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I tried the Margherita with Cherry tomatoes and my host had himself a Pepperoni. The restaurant also has a few beers on tap which I somehow did not try during my visit. My Margherita pizza was outstanding. The chefs took a good 30 minutes to prepare it but it was as authentic and tasty as I’d expect a Margherita pizza to be. Vegetarians can also try pizzas with peppers, potatoes, spinach and most conventional vegetable toppings. There is also garlic bread and pastas for those who will visit it four times in five days like I wish I had done. Most large pizzas are priced at about USD 9. In my fictional rating scale where I am the vegetarian Anthony Bourdain, I give Oggi FIVE STARS out of FIVE.

b) Jen Dow vegetarian buffet The best vegetarian meal in Taiwan can be had at the Jen Dow. It is a pricey buffet but a culinary experience unlike any I have been a part of. It is an all-vegetarian buffet that caters primarily to Buddhist monks. The restaurants serves a lunch and dinner buffet and the menu changes every day. I highly recommend skipping a third meal on the day that you decide to try this.

The buffet costs USD 27 and has over a 100 different dishes. The entire restaurant is spread across five different rooms with seating in all but one of them. The service staff will be zipping around constantly cleaning out used plates and cups and the music in the background is strangely funereal. But once you accept those two elements the rest of the experience is a true feast.

There are about seven or eight soups and about 20 appetizers to get you started. The names of the soups do not translate well to English for e.g. “Winter bamboo river soup”. My recommendation would be to pass on the soups unless you were suffering from a sore throat. The soups are decent but fill you up way too much ahead of some much tastier and more unique dishes. The appetizers are rich in vegetables and here below are pictures of some of them.

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Only some of these dishes had name cards that I could read and only one of the waitresses spoke English, so I am at a loss in describing any of these but I can tell you they were all delicious and spanned every range in the taste spectrum

After you are done with the soups, appetizers the dumplings stations await you. If you are a fan of pot stickers and dumplings there are eight-ten options that are made continuously by the chef at the station. The dumplings were tasty but not as unique as the appetizers I mentioned earlier. Pass on these unless you have a real craving.

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After the dumplings station you will reach the salad bar. Fresh and cold veggies and fruits including refreshing watermelons and cucumbers dominate the side space of room #3. Putting on my Nate Silver hat I am usually very opposed to wasting time on salads in buffets for the low marginal value of it all. But the freshness exuded by the vegetables and fruits here would make the calmest and most analytical amongst us cave to the crispy raw veggies and fruits.

If you still have any appetite at this point you will reach the entrees area which begins with a ‘Make your own Hot Pot’ station. I wasn’t familiar with the concept of a Hot Pot until this trip. I learnt that hot pots were staples of Chinese cuisine consisting of vegetables, noodles and meat in boiling hot stock usually chicken. This is a vegetarian restaurant of course and they offer you three varieties of stock and a plethora of veggies and fake meat for protein. I chose the plain stock the one time I tried this and lost my Indian card for the day for choosing it ahead of the curry stock or the spicy stock.

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The hot pot is outstanding and takes 45 minutes to fully do justice to. Since the restaurant is only open four hours at a time, do not be afraid to be a rebel and start off with the hot pot.

Other entrees include varieties of rice, curry and pasta. Odds are you will not be able to try any of these as they will expose you to room #5 and the dessert and drinks stations. Well at least that’s what happened to me.

There are about 15 desserts on display per meal with everything from this Indian-like traditional milk sweet to a chocolate fountain that was likely smuggled from Las Vegas. Here’s what they looked like before I was in a coma.

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With a plethora of very distinctive tastes, fresh and local produce and fake meat for protein the buffet at the Jen dow restaurant is a must for any foodie let alone a vegetarian. My inner Anthony Bourdain gives it SEVEN stars out five.

c) Mayur Indian kitchen While craving Indian food on my third night out I accidentally ran into Mayur Indian Kitchen five minutes from Taipei 101. Mayur did not show up for my online searches and I am not sure why. I had a few meals here and highly recommend them for fresh, simple Indian food. They have a very limited menu with a very limited vegetarian section but do a great job of churning those dishes out quickly and of very high quality.

I tried their Roti and Dal, Aloo Gobi and Channa masala on three different visits. The portions were perfectly sized and the food was very affordable. A bread + curry cost me about USD 7. This was also the only Indian restaurant that served Idlis and Sambar. They run out of these very quickly so you may not be lucky enough to taste Idlis in taipei.

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The service is quick, the place is small and clean and there is a TV churning out Bollywood hits. This is the only place for Indian craving. My very fake Anthony Bourdain gives it 4 stars out of 5. To get five stars they just have to serve dosas and maybe Gobi Manchurian.

d) Woo bar The last vegetarian friendly place I will recommend in the city of Taipei is the Woo bar on the eighth floor of the posh W hotel in the heart of downtown Taipei. The Woo bar is really a lounge plus bar plus pool bar plus restaurant serving appetizers, all-in-one. It is what you want it to be. If you like me are hungry at 10 PM with a lone male engineer for company you dress up to make the dress code cut and use it as the place for your last meal of the day. For many others it is the happening spot for the night as the skinniest of the skinniest women make their way around carrying 30 calorie drinks.

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I enjoyed the Samosas, nachos and minty mojitos. The menu also has veggie pizzas, fries, pot stickers, onion rings, burritos and salads. The ambience and music are spectacular and the food and drink options compare favorably to most lounges and restaurants you would encounter. For a five-star hotel, the prices are still very reasonable and you could get 2 dishes, a drink and bottled water for about USD 25.

Metaphorical Anthony Bourdain gives this place three stars out of five ‘cos for how good it was and how vegetarian-friendly it was, I still didn’t ever feel like going back unlike all of the other places above.

Taipei is a beautiful, modern city. Enjoy it and do visit these four establishments any time you crave the good food….