Posted by & filed under cricket.

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They call it a tradition unlike any other. It is one of the most revered events in sports and brings a twinkle to the eyes of connoisseurs worldwide. It is a four-day event held at the same time in the same place every year. It lasts longer than most test matches. It is held at a venue that banned people of color until about 20 years ago and women until 8 months ago. Spectators cannot bring cellphones or cameras in to the event and the television coverage is heavily packaged and canned. The actual outcomes themselves are very random and the event is self-scored which means unlike any other sport, it is based on everyone doing the right thing for everyone else.

Antiquated idiosyncracies associated with the sport came to the forefront this weekend when a 14-year-old prodigy was penalized for taking more time than some old men thought he needed to take to play his stroke. Also, the sport’s sole icon and on the backs of who, the whole cottage industry runs, was penalized two strokes nearly 12 hours after his score was recorded. He was penalized because some anonymous fan got thru the event’s hotline to the deciders-in-chief and ratted out an apparent 2 yard drift in the ball. If similar events had transpired in a non-American sport, they would have been mocked mercilessly. But instead – A TRADITION UNLIKE ANY OTHER!

Football in England is advertised, marketed and watched worldwide. The Premiership markets itself as the world’s most watched league with 4.7 billion viewers. Here is something that happened in the Premier league this weekend –

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E6Afz_UYq3c&w=560&h=315]

Twenty nine people were arrested, horses were punched and drunken hooliganism ended up reminding people even more of the times of Margaret Thatcher’s prime ministership. The country’s premier knockout competition saw some violence of its own –

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aKZQ6xPdnlE?rel=0&w=420&h=315]

A lot of people brush these incidents of violence off. They’re considered part and parcel of the British soccer football experience. The violence is quietly mourned but forgotten as it continues to support the stereotyping of the crazy English fan. Not much ink is wasted over whether or not this is a sports league that warrants the popularity and respect it has among the world’s public. The same teams win year after year, the rich always kick the poor’ butt and the national team’s performance or thereof is but a predictable offshoot of the draining and exhausting league calendar.

The EPL and British soccer have more problems to contend with and more black marks than its public reputation suggests. And yet it is the greatest and most popular sports league in the world!

The only sporting event I watched this weekend was a cricket match between the Chennai Super Kings and the Royal Challengers Bangalore. It was an event that provided coffee-spilling, sweat-inducing tension, excitement and entertainment at the crack of a California dawn. It was compelling theater. It was a local derby between teams that represent two cities that mutually respect and hate each other. On Twitter and Facebook it was a rivalry that sucked you in no matter who you rooted for.

A lot of Chennai wishes it were Bangalore. Bangalore has always been Chennai’s much more attractive, cooler cuter friend. A friend who even had all the water (Search #kaveriderby on Twitter for the related tweets and laughs).

A lot of Bangalore cannot get what the fuss is about Chennai. That the uniquely uncosmoplitan city stays relevant rankles and rattles many a Bangalorean. Apparently soul and sambar have not hit them yet. And yes, they also hate the fact that Chennai has dominated them when it matters in the IPL. Last year Bangalore conceded 42 runs off 12 deliveries and a last ball boundary to Sir Ravindra Jadeja. Surely they will not lose in such a painful manner this year!

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But of course they did. In a contest that see-sawed amid excellent performances by AB De Villiers, Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni, the Chennai Super Kings stole one on the backs of some late fearless hitting. The last 45 minutes of the game were thrilling beyond words. Batsmen played outrageous strokes to many a fullish delivery. A sporting full house played its part in escalating the Saturday night atmosphere and the contest climaxed to an outrageous yet memorable crescendo of a no-ball. Here are the highlights of the match –

http://www.iplt20.com/videos/media/id/7948f4fd3bb54250a18ed47ff2706bd5/m16-csk-vs-rcb-match-highlights

The IPL will never be associated with tradition. It will never be fully embraced by the British, Australians or Americans. It will always have corporate overreach, overdone elements of entertainment and differences from the highest form of the game. But it will embrace not discriminate, stay non-violent and provide you with more thrills and excitement than most leagues you consider following. So until you find evidence that the results are compromised do watch…

Posted by & filed under cricket, Indian abroad.

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Kartikeya Date wrote a piece titled ‘Why I won’t watch IPL6’. Like most things he writes, the piece is analytical, scathing and brutally honest. I agree with a lot of what Kartikeya says in this piece and about the IPL and T-20 cricket. I just disagree with him on his conclusion here. I think an individual can process all of the reasons behind Kartikeya’s conclusion and still disagree on the ending and choose to watch the IPL. Here below are my reasons why. In short, all of the reasons I have for liking, following and watching the IPL have to do with the value it has placed on labor and how much it has rewarded the most important individuals in the sport I love – cricketers.


1) A great triumph for labor
– The most important person/thing in all of cricket is the cricketer. The cricketer toils and hones his (apologies for use of the male pronoun) talent in the hope of performing at a high level some day. The odds that said cricketer will get a chance to play at the highest level and/or make enough money for himself and his family are astronomically low. This is truer in India than in most test playing nations where the path to succeed in cricket goes thru competition versus a few million at the expense of one’s education, career and many adolescent and teenage years. If you were a batsman of mediocre talent at age 24 in the 80’s and 90’s, your doors were all mostly shut. Playing for your state team which was the second highest level you could climb to, fetched you about a lakh a year with no real chance of a future financial windfall.

The IPL has changed this.

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The IPL has so far gotten cricketers and cricket a market value income more in tune with the popularity and reach of the sport than anything before it or after it. And miraculously, some of this massive windfall has trickled down to other levels of cricket and to international cricketers either past their prime or past their national team’s use-by date. This is important. Cricketers have to already go thru the physical and mental grind of years of practice, the loneliness of travel and touring, the vagaries of umpiring and administrations and the good luck-bad luck of bowlers and fielders of extreme variance. A Sujith Somasunder wears the India cap twice while a Kanwaljit Singh never does. Brad Haddin is made to wait for years for an opportunity while Ajit Agarkar leverages one good spell for a decade of relevance. Life is very unfair to cricketers

The IPL has helped alleviate this.

Former Hyderabad off-spinner Kanwaljeet Singh

Former Hyderabad off-spinner Kanwaljeet Singh

Today there is a market for cricketers with unique talents suited to a unique format of the game. This market pays the cricketers very well. This market encourages parents and kids of today to take risks they would not have. This format gives the individual most responsible for the sport, a chance at a nest egg and slightly better odds at a life where he can monetize his passion. Above everything else and outside of all things that one finds vile about the IPL, this is a reason to watch. Who cares if the format is not really cricket or if the corporate intervention kills your country’s test and ODI related talents? This format may be responsible for helping the next Kanwaljit Singh or Amol Muzumdar to pursue cricket in the heat of the college exams?

Kartikeya in his piece says,“I won’t watch the IPL. I won’t watch it because it is boring, of poor quality, reduces great players to caricatures, wastes new talent, and is structurally incapable of producing high quality cricket (see the facts about the IPL above).” Ask Kanwaljit Singh or Amol Muzumdar or Brad Haddin if they think the IPL or a clone would have wasted their talent if it had shown up in the 80’s. Ask them if the visibility and the money would have made existing structures worse in producing high quality cricket? Ask Steve Tikolo or Dhruv Pandove’s dad if their careers wouldn’t have been better with the IPL around?

2) Different does not necessarily make it mediocre or wrong – One of the points Kartikeya repeatedly makes in his post is that the talent levels and skill levels needed for succeeding in the IPL are way inferior to those required by test and ODI cricket calling the format’s quality mediocre. I find the use of the word mediocre here very perplexing. Say that we lived in a world today where T-20 cricket was the format that proliferated first thanks to a 19’th century Kerry Packer. And that test match cricket is something a hipster billionaire popularized in the 2000s. Would we then have called the latter mediocre because it tainted the original format with ridiculous breaks such as lunch or tea and ensured middle order batsmen would rarely face the new ball? Would we call the format low intelligence because it removes much strategy from the captains by giving them unlimited access to their prime bowling resources?

Obviously not!

We would find a way to value whatever is unique about each format and enjoy them all. Or we would dislike one of the formats based on the amount of time we have available to us and the values we value. Calling test cricket mediocre would not have been our default reaction.

So while I subjectively agree with Kartikeya on the format I enjoy and I value what test cricket tests and values, it does not mean I think T-20 cricketers are mediocre. They are different. I do not blame them for brandishing what are still very unique skills that most of us will never possess. I do not hate them for the money they make for these very unique skills. I wouldn’t want Manvinder Bisla walking in at 0/1 at Trent Bridge on a July Thursday. But I respect the hell out of him for marching outside the crease at 7/1 on the sultriest of May evenings in the biggest of national stages. He is not mediocre in life or in cricket. He is just different.

Image of Manvinder Bisla courtesy Yahoo

Image of Manvinder Bisla courtesy Yahoo

3) Lastly I cringe at statements that worry about the impact of money on labor – Kartikeya says,”Would the next guy care about bowling good off spin if he saw you make a million bucks? If I was the next guy, I wouldn’t. Not unless I was some kind of masochistic yogi.” As long as participating adults are over 18 why should anyone care/cringe about how much money they make? Why should we worry about how money affects someone’s incentives? When cable TV invaded India, a lot of prospective bank tellers became models and actresses. Did we worry about the impact money would have on these women? Should we? Why then should we care about the impact of money on young cricketers? After all it is the cricketer’s labor that makes everything tick. If you profess to care about labor and the negative impacts of corporations you have to not wonder about high salaries for labor. It is contradictory and paternalistic.

While my life’s bucket list includes stops at several test venues for test matches (hopeful for a few that match the scenes at Auckland last week (below)) and while the memories of Kolkata ’01 and Adelaide ’03 will never be surpassed, I will watch IPL 6. I will watch it while feeling happy that the most important individuals in the cricket industrial complex are being paid better than ever. I will watch it knowing the skills needed are very different from those needed for test matches but still very challenging. I will watch it hoping it spurs on every borderline talent at every level of the game to pursue his passion. I will watch it because it is good for the cricketer. And I hope you will too!

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Posted by & filed under cricket.

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Chennai is my home town. Virtually everything I learned about cricket as a kid in the 80’s was from being around knowledgeable Chennaites. I have an almost familial attachment to the city and the sport. In the Indian Premier League (IPL) I hence root for the Chennai Super Kings (CSK). While the ties between the players who wear the yellow jerseys brandishing the alphabets on the front and the city are fairly loose, the team has actually commanded and earned my support and fandom with their consistency and excellence thru five seasons.They have been ably lead and coached. They have signed players up intelligently and have represented the city very well. The organization also does social media well (as evident by the videos below), has many interesting characters and most importantly wins way more games than it loses.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Bl4iwExSi4?rel=0&w=640&h=360]

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hl7yGR04yTU?rel=0&w=640&h=360]

But rooting for the team in season 6 of the IPL in 2013 is going to feel very different and much more difficult. Politics and sport are constantly intertwined in India but the decision by the IPL governing council to placate the ruling Tamil Nadu government and rule out players of Sri Lankan descent from games in Chennai reeks of a stench heretofore unheard of in sport. The rule disregards the competitive checks and balances in place and forces teams to play Chennai in Chennai (an already intimidating task) with one hand tied behind their backs for no fault of theirs. The rule is a meek surrender to a powerful political entity. The rule embraces fear and engenders it even more. The IPL and CSK are very proud of how professional they are. Nothing could be less professional than skewing the balance of 11% of the games on the words of a state politician.

I am not naive to underestimate the influence, clout and words of the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu. But there are ways to deal with a diktat like that so as to not compromise on competitive balance. Ideally the IPL governing council should have polled the eight other teams on their willingness to play in Chennai without their Lankan players. Those teams that did not view this as a competitive disadvantage should have been asked to play their games in Chennai as planned and those teams that expressed an issue should have had their games moved to a neutral venue of the governing council’s choice. The only people who would have been hurt by this would be fans and players of CSK who could have then expressed their frustration to the Chief Minister of their state. The feedback loop would have been apt, ethical and fair. The chief minister would have been asked to explain to her constituents why she felt it was unsafe for Sri Lankan players to play in Chennai. At least by following this process, the league would hold accountable those that need to be held accountable and not punish the innocents.

Image courtesy Yahoo

Image courtesy Yahoo

Instead the governing council has chosen the easy way out. Losing home games at the M A Chidambaram stadium is a big no-no to the CSK ownership group and the President of the BCCI. So they have forced eight other teams to bite the bullet. This is unfair and irks me as someone who roots for the city of Chennai and the cricket team. There is no doubt that their home wins this year deserve to be asterisked. Would the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) have paid $625,00 for Senanayake if they knew ahead of time that they couldn’t use him versus the team that pushed them to the brink last year? Are the Mumbai Indians and the Ambani family going to be compensated for not being able to use their spearhead in one of their two opening games?

And what a bad precedent this is for the future? Could a chief minister of a different state not ban Chris Gayle or Dale Steyn or Dirk Nannes on account of the all-encompassing ‘security reasons’?

I love my hometown and love the concept of a franchise-based professional league in India. I like a salary-cap league that entertains millions of people night-after-night. I like the Chennai Super Kings. I will still root for them because that’s what fans do. If it were easy to switch loyalties, sports would be covered on the same page of the newspaper as the stock market. We’d always root for the bulls and abandon the bears.

I will watch the games this year. I will wear my yellow jersey. I will take strategic bathroom timeouts and text my friends during the games. I will see my sleep affected and will mutter Whistle Podu as I walk past people in parking lots and buses. I will spend an insane amount of time to calculate the complex permutations that will need to transpire for CSK to make the playoffs.

In the midst of all this, I will know that the team’s home games are asterisked and are a sham this year. There’s just no way to WHISTLE past it……

Posted by & filed under Indian abroad.

This is the third part in a series of posts about immigration reform 2013 happening in the US and its impact on Indians on F-1 and H-1B visas. The earlier two posts are here and here.

The goal of this post is to clarify the implications of the latest developments in Washington D.C while also expanding on how the perceived divide between STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math) graduates from U.S universities and H-1B/L-1 visa holders on projects from Indian IT firms is only going to get bigger.

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1) The tech sector continues to stay very aggressive – Major technology employers like Facebook, Google, Amazon, Apple and Microsoft have been huge proponents of increasing the H-1B visa quota and making the Green card process shorter. In the last week we found out how aggressive. Mark Zuckerberg who has stayed out of hot-button political issues is preparing to make a huge statement on immigration reform according to multiple news reports such as this one. Stories such as this also call out how much bipartisan lobbying is ongoing on the issue of more H-1B and faster turnaround times for green card applicants.

Like I mentioned earlier, work visas for a simpler green card process for STEM graduates has unique bipartisan backing and popularity in Congress in this day and age. And with a hugely popular technology sector continuing a unified push with influential voices, it looks inevitable that significant reform in favor of STEM graduates is but a matter of time this year. As I see it today, the reform will make it easier for STEM graduates to get an H-1B visa (by doubling the total # of available visas), easier to get a green card(by speeding up the process and stages for the same), reduce wait times for both and cost more money (in fees for both employer and employee).

Here below courtesy the Migration institute is a graph showing how long the wait times for H-1Bs have gotten and why this is a pet project for technology companies today.

Graph courtesy The Migration Institute

Graph courtesy The Migration Institute

2) Universities are lobbying hard – The Sunlight foundation which tracks lobbying across Washington D.C to measure who is funding what politicians for what political causes did a deep-dive on the lobbying behind immigration. One of the surprising findings for me was the extent of lobbying that schools and universities have done for science and technology majors. This tells me that universities which have seen their grants, endowments and public funding take huge hits during the recession are looking to recoup a bunch back on the backs of increased foreign students. This validates my original hypothesis from two posts ago that while things are likely to get easier and more deterministic for STEM graduates, the fees are likely to increase too. Washington is looking desperately for revenue at a time of immense distaste for taxes of any kind and no source of revenue is more popular than immigrants hoping to make it big and hoping to become citizens.

While this portion has not been outlined yet, we will see significant indicators on the fees metrics in the next week or so when the Senate’s version of the bill is released in its entirety.

3) The perceived divide gets bigger Rightly or wrongly, a huge divide exists in the perception among politicians and corporations of India born STEM graduates from U.S universities and those visiting the U.S on business projects from Indian IT firms. For reasons partly attributable to the abuse of L-1 visa quotas and falsification of resume’s individuals visiting the U.S on behalf of IT firms even for a few years (not months) are not given the same place that STEM graduates from universities are. And all signs point to the fact that this will only increase as immigration reform 2013 moves forward.

Corporations, labor and politicians all have incentives to appear to not promote outsourcing and those on L-1 or visiting on H-1B are surprisingly viewed as being part of the outsourcing bucket. Current reform is expected to make it harder for these folks to get in and out of the green card line. It is also expected to reduce the number of visas for people in this category as the visas needed to spruce up the overall STEM numbers needs to come from some where.

So that is where we stand today. A lot more news is expected in the next few days as reform kicks in to high gear with the Senate version of a bill which will form a large chunk (60-70%) of the final bill. Stay tuned!

Posted by & filed under cricket, Indian abroad.

Thanks to the wonderful folks at ESPNcricinfo I was lucky enough to be part of their Google+ Hangout with Rahul Dravid aka the only cause I cared for. It lasted 50 minutes and was an educational and fun experience at 2 AM on a Monday. Six of the people who participated in the Hangout were from the U.S. I have enough questions to bug Dravid with for a week but this was a mighty fine substitute.

While the sound quality from the studio could have been better, the technology and logistics to get 10 people from different parts of the world interacting on a browser tab with one of the all-time greats was mind-boggling. This is a great platform for collaboration and interaction and I am sure it will evolve into something very profound for sports websites, media outlets and athletes themselves.

You can watch the whole video here.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vD7Silto7p8?rel=0&w=640&h=360]

Thanks ESPNcricinfo and thanks again Rahul Dravid for the joys of a lifetime.

Posted by & filed under Indian abroad, Media.

I was perplexed by the conclusions Gregory Ferenstein drew in this Techcrunch piece about how 72% of professors who teach online courses don’t think students deserve credit for those courses. Gregory says that this shows what an uphill fight online courses will have in establishing and gaining credibility.

Image courtesy Techcrunch blog.

Image courtesy Techcrunch blog.

I couldn’t disagree more. Active professors independent of whether they teach online courses or not are the least unbiased of people to comment on the potency and future of online learning. This is because the answer to the question – “Who has the most to lose if online courses become mainstream and their degrees get on par with existing universities and colleges?” is EXISTING ACTIVE PROFESSORS. I would not take their opinion on this topic seriously at all. It’s a bit like asking newspaper journalists in 2000 what they thought of this whole internet thing and being told “Naah, nothing will replace the crisp fresh morning local paper.”

As much fun, educational and life-changing as the college and university experience is and can be, higher education in the US is a huge clusterfuck now. Student debt on college education is at dangerous levels and is following the subprime script of the 2000’s. While there is correlation between higher incomes and those who have gone to college versus those who only finished high school, the value does not exist for everyone who shells out a whole bunch of money for their college experience. About 48% of employed college graduates are in jobs that do not need a college degree already.

college-student-debt

It is against this backdrop that the future of online learning and degrees should be viewed. Yes it is very likely that the lack of a classroom face-to-face environment would mean that the quality of online learning will never match the depth of class at a university. But this does not mean online learning will stay irrelevant or even less relevant. Online courses will always be cheaper, will be quicker and once the testing and accreditation pieces are solved, they will be a better value. There are several complex topics in life, science, math, languages, arts and the humanities that can be taught effectively using video lectures, timed quizzes and discussion forums. Anyone who argues against this is choosing to bet against humanity’s constant quest for increased comfort and value and the natural progression of capitalism.

Universities in California and Wisconsin have already identified a pool of online courses they recognize for credits. The Khan academy is a highly valued model for education and Coursera is growing at an exponential rate and the thousands of tenured professors and lecturers are not going to be able to wish this revolution away. More and more corporations and companies are going to value students who graduate sooner and who possess a skill-set relevant in the world of that day. They are not going to bother as much about where the degree is from as they have clear visibility in to the online coursework.

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I am particularly bullish on the future of online learning and coursework because of my personal experiences with them. In the last year I have completed courses at MIT Hacker lab, NY TIMES writing school and Coursera. I have enjoyed each of these and learnt a lot in topics that I did not know much about going in. The writing course cost me a few hundred dollars but the Coursera course and the MIT course were both free. Would I have learnt more if I had taken these courses over a semester at a community college or a public or private university? Yes. But I learnt enough, was tested adequately and worked on both individual and team projects that I feel like I gained 70-80% of the value while continuing with my day job and leading a normal life. These are real tangible skills I have learned and skills that employers can measure easily when they talk to me for 5-10 minutes.

What Coursera is doing in particular is impressive. They are offering video lectures from lecturers in established universities and testing students on the material over 6-10 quizzes and two-four projects. The lectures are extremely useful in providing structure and flow to the material while the quizzes and projects kept me honest, competitive and accountable. I will go back to Coursera. Many times.

Attending universities with history, social brand value/reputation will still have value in signalling to society that you were diligent and in many ways normal. But I am very confident that those who complete online learning and get degrees from sites and online courses will be able to signal soon to society that they invested in themselves too, for a less riskier and smaller investment of time and money.

So when someone tells you that the education model will last longer than you and that the online learning marketplace is useless, take it with a grain of salt. History, technology and capitalism are all stacked against that.

Posted by & filed under Indian abroad.

P.S: I have written more recently on this topic with newer information here.

Six weeks ago I wrote about the promising state of comprehensive immigration reform in the US Congress. I wrote about how I expect the green card thru employment process to become significantly easier and a touch more expensive for Indians who have a Master’s degree or higher from an U.S university. Here below is an update on where things stand as of now and my take on the same.

nochange

1) Not much has changed in the proposed reform – With Republicans in control of the house and the Democrats in control of the Senate and the presidency, there is not a lot of chummy bipartisanship these days in Washington D.C. The two parties like each other less today than they have for most of the last century. That is why it is very surprising that the areas of consensus on comprehensive immigration reform have not changed much in the last few weeks. While Republicans in the house have raised concerns over the paths to citizenship offered to undocumented immigrants and some Senators have opposed current benchmarks for border security, the areas of consensus are vast in number. Both parties and both chambers of Congress have publicly expressed a desire to reform the country’s immigration system in ways that are impossible to find on other defining issues such as climate change, unemployment rates and health care reform. Articles such as this convey a sunny optimism and bipartisanship that passage of immigration reform now seems inevitable.

2) Lack of change is a good thing – The lack of change on the areas of broad consensus is a very good thing for immigrants undocumented and legal. No one has yet complained publicly about speedier and easier paths to a green card for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) graduates. There have been no leaks on the impact such reform will have on wages and pensions. There have been no reports of major breakdown in talks or intrusion from big business or labor. In fact big business and labor unions have even agreed to the broad parameters of ongoing debate and discussion.

All of this is very good news for Indians who graduated from US universities and are working in technology or are students currently. If nothing else changes as the planned reform makes its way thru House and Senate committees and eventually to a vote, things are promising for speedier and easier access to a deterministic process towards permanent residency.

mindy-kaling

3) Impact to families and spouses is unclear – One aspect I still don’t have a handle on is the impact to the families of those of us on H-1B or F1. STEM graduates and H-1B STEM employees who did a Master’s in the U.S are likely to have a fast-tracked green card process. But there is no indication yet on how or if current policy will be tweaked for spouses, would-bes, children and parents. Every Indian on H-1B realizes that marrying into or during the green card process is easier for everyone involved than marrying after the green card process is complete. But how will this change in 2013? Will spouses of STEM graduates and STEM employees get the same or any perks?

Answers to these questions are not clear as of today. My hunch is that spouses and families of STEM green card holders will benefit via a similarly fast-tracked but more expensive process. The U.S treasury is bleeding revenue and nothing makes more sense than extravagant fees for the rights to become a permanent resident quickly. I will stay on the lookout for more information related to the impact on spouses here and will update on this blog as soon as I hear or process anything on this front. Powerful media outlets like Bloomberg and Tech Crunch have been calling this area out to politicians in pieces such as this one.

4) When will the next big news break ? April. April is when the House of representatives will release their version of immigration reform. The plan from the house is likely to be even more friendly to those who are in the US to pursue a Master’s degree or have already done so. By then the Senate plan will also very comprehensive and clear. Most of what will happen after April will be political posturing and discussion about narrow focus areas as the bills get reconciled into a law that President Obama will sign into action by end-of-year 2013. For an Indian on H-1B or F-1, the next 40 days will reveal much of what will be the immigration law of the land for the next 20 years or so.

Stay tuned!

Posted by & filed under NFL.

Vikings_Sign_Greg_Jennings_from_Rival_Packers-110557

Dear Greg,

It’s not you. It’s not me either. I wanted you back but not so badly that it would affect the Packers’ ability to re-sign Rodgers, Matthews, Raji and Cobb. You wanted to play for the Vikings not because you disliked the Packers or had any Favre-ian grudge. You just wanted to play for the team that paid you the most guaranteed money over the next few years. I understand. If I were so lucky as to be blessed with your talent, I’d have done the same thing. Like the running back on your new team can attest, you are always one football move away from a career threatening injury and you have to do whatever you can to make the most money for your family before you become too old to play football and retire. I get it. I really do. So I wish your family the best of health and a rosy future. I wish you a long injury-free second half of your career. I thank you for the wonderful plays you made for the Packers over the last seven seasons. I will never forget what an integral role you played in the winning streak of 2010-2011. I will not forget how skeptical I was of you when Ted Thompson drafted you in the second round as a direct replacement of one of my favorite Packers – Javon Walker. I will not forget how wrong you made my skepticism look as you developed electric route-running and yards-after-catch skills while developing into an elite wide receiver.

You were the reason I brought the roof down in front of four Broncos fans when you were part of an 80 yard touchdown on the first play of overtime that Monday night in 2007. Thank you for that!

http://youtu.be/vpAp9clbMvE

You bailed the offensive line and Rodgers out many times. The most memorable of those was on that Sunday night versus Chicago when you did this at the end of the game. Thank you for that!

You were great in the Superbowl. The catch you made and the throw Rodgers made to extend the lead to 18 points is a play I still cannot process. It is inhuman to be able to make a catch microns away from Troy Polamalu. But you did. Thank you for that!

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sxxTCwgL9Yg?rel=0&w=480&h=360]

I am very grateful to you for the 476 catches, 7217 yards at almost 15 yards a catch including 59 touchdowns as a Packer. I know I will miss you next fall as young Randall Cobb, frustrating James Jones and perennially double-covered Jordy try to make up for your absence. Thank you for everything you have done for me and for Packer nation so far.

But you know what? I am not sure I will miss you very much the fall after that or any season beyond 2013. And I am pretty sure you will miss me and millions of Packers fans much sooner than that:). Even though you did the right thing for yourself and for your family, you will miss us when you are lining up for the 53’rd consecutive 3’rd and 10 in front of a faithless home crowd as Christian Ponder or Matt Cassel throw dead ducks at the sideline. You will miss us when you go later in fantasy drafts than the Packers defense does. You will miss us when your advertising portfolio is limited to car dealerships in Duluth. You will miss us when you miss the playoffs three years in a row. You will miss us when you play in this dump for two seasons.

800px-TCF_Bank_Stadium

You will miss doing the Lambeau leap. A lot. You will miss Aaron Rodgers. A lot. And at some point you will decide that you want to be remembered as a Packer for life and you will re-sign with the Green and Gold. I will welcome you back then. We all will. There’s probably a Superbowl or two still in this roster and maybe you’ll be back in time for one.

But until then, suck it and Go Pack, Go!

Yours truly,
Every Packer fan

Posted by & filed under cricket, Indian abroad.

A few days back, prolific tweeter and hard-core cricket fan Mahek Vyas tweeted about the shocking paucity of cricket movies in Hindi considering how big and wide cricket’s influence is. Outside of Lagaan, there has not been a well-made and memorable Hindi movie where cricket played a central role. It was a thought that resonated with me. It was also very fresh in my mind when I watched Kai Po Che recently.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TwvBIPUpYVY?rel=0&w=560&h=315]

I don’t watch a lot of movies. I prefer the unscripted unpredictability of sport to movies and I also have the attention span of a two-year old. So here below are my thoughts on Kai Po Che as a cricket fan. This is not a movie review. It is a review of the cricket embedded in what I thought was a very well-made and memorable movie.

Kai Po Che is based in Gujarat circa 2000-2001. The mood of the people from that time is captured appropriately. So is the cricket of the time.

There is a scene in the movie where three friends who are slowly drifting away from each other due to divergent views on society, politics, religion run incoherently towards a mad embrace because India had just beaten Australia in Kolkata. To me, that scene captured the meaning of cricket in India to India today. It is realistic. It is part of the India I grew up in and it is a part of every Indian gathering I am a part of. There is a belief that lies underneath a lot of us that whatever our differences and principles, however little we know of each other, a quick cricket conversation is the strongest social signalling device. I have exchanged several nods and smiles at work with folks who get up out of their cubes at the exact same moment when we are done clicking REFRESH on the browsers in our cubes.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mQGTXhqVmCQ?rel=0&w=420&h=315]

I was in India in March of 2001. I remember how hopeless everything looked on the evening of March 12 2001. Indian cricket looked like it would never recover from a match-fixing scandal of a year earlier and Australia looked unconquerable. What transpired the next three days went way beyond cricket. A fan-base gained new belief and strength and one that would get them thru the next 50 years. Even today in the most hopeless of situations, a lot of us flashback and think “We came back from a lot worse in Kolkata.”

The movie does a great job of capturing that moment in time thru its protagonists. To me that is a very hard thing to do and I am so glad that Chetan Bhagat and Abhishek Kapoor captured that cricket moment in time in an accurate and realistic manner. I am sure it must have been tempting to throw a glamorized fictional situation in that spot.

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Cricket in India is also about millions of aspirational kids, controversial selections and the intrusion of politics at every level. Cricket in India is about parental objections. Cricket in India is about preferring the on-side to the off-side. Cricket in India is about constantly needing more bats and balls than affordable or available.

Kai Po Che captures this all and integrates it seamlessly in to a story about three young Indians and their day-to-day challenges in Gujarat. Kai Po Che is the best Hindi cricket movie I have seen yet. The cricket fan in me loved it.

Now if you will excuse me I have to go attend to my goosebumps from watching the highlights from the Kolkata test in 2001 for the 2001’th time…..

Posted by & filed under cricket.

The IPL confirmed recently that the Delhi Daredevils (DD) would play two of their eight home games in Raipur. Franchises do play a game or two away from the home stadium in their home city. Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) have played and will play games at Dharamshala while the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) will play two of their games in Ranchi. Dharamshala is 170 kilometers from Chandigarh. Ranchi is 250 kilometers from Kolkata. It is understandable that the franchises would want to expand their fan base and consumer base in these cities. Dharamshala and Ranchi are also in KXIP and KKR’s catchment areas respectively. However, asking DD to play in Raipur befuddles me. Raipur is closer to Hyderabad and Mumbai than it is to Delhi. The Feroze Shah Kotla is nearly 1300 kilometres away from Raipur. As far as I can see Raipur has also never hosted an international match or even a significant first class game. Here is the list of matches played in Raipur so far. This even violates one of the commandments in the hilariously loose list of criteria for IPL venues posted on the official IPL site.

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Why would the IPL want to move two games from Delhi all the way to Raipur to a ground that has never hosted a first class game before? If the mission was to evangelize fans and spread the joy, cheer and pomp of DD cricket why not take it to Lucknow or Kanpur or Faridabad? Here is my theory – The GMR group that owns DD is sweetening the pot for local Raipur politicians so that GMR can get speedy clearances and move forward even quicker on the 1370 MW thermal power plant under construction in Raipur.

The plant is slated to be commissioned in 2014 and is currently moving slower than planned. The GMR groups gets its revenues from three main operations – infrastructure aka highway construction and toll, airports and power plants. Based on their most recent balance sheet, GMR has hit into serious headwinds on the infrastructure and airport fronts. They have pulled out of some planned highway projects including their biggest – (Ahmedabad-Kishangarh) and saw the Male airport project cancelled by the local government. They have publicly stated that they are lowering their bets on infrastructure projects and counting on slightly improved revenue from improved foot traffic and increased airport taxes at the New Delhi airport. These are not promising steps for a rosy future. The revenue streams that have kept GMR going seem to be drying out in the short-term and the power plant in Raipur may hold the key to bringing the company back in the black.

GMR1

The project is facing challenges during the construction phase. Some problems are environmental and some are related to acquiring privately owned land.

It seems very likely to me that by giving two IPL games to the Chattisgarh International Cricket stadium and providing associated revenue and entertainment to the local cricket association (which is highly likely run by local politicians like most associations in India), GMR is trying to get their projects moved quicker thru the construction pipeline. Based on all the research I have done, I will be very shocked if there are any other reasons for GMR and the IPL moving two games away from Delhi’s traditional home ground to Chattisgarh.

This sort of “I scratch your back, you scratch mine” is not uncommon in professional sports and the franchise model. In the US, NBA cities are promised the chance to host all-star games and NFL teams are promised the chance to host Superbowls if they build new stadiums. Corporations and leagues like to extract their pound of flesh from local communities in return for just existing. But what GMR seems to be trying here is unique in that their cricketing wing is being asked to bear the costs of their infrastructure wing. The corporation is likely using the professional cricket team as another tentacle in their corporate battles. Loyal fans of the cricket team who live in and around Delhi and were hoping to see their team eight times in person are being compromised and cheated in order to sate the corporation’s stockholders.

Maybe this is the price to pay for the franchise model. Maybe RCB will play some games mid-air next season to get their owner’s airline business back on track. But from a cricketing and fan loyalty perspective, this is cruel and a violation of the bond between the fan and the team that the team will do everything it can to make the fan happy and to win games. By making team decisions on the basis of corporation needs, GMR is short-changing Delhi cricket fans and their chance at winning IPL-6. Unless GMR or DD come up with a different reason behind the move of two games, this is loud and very clear.

What do you think?