The Crotchet’s Corner

My perspective about all things inconsequential

Chestnuts in the fire

Australia have not lost an Ashes Test at Lord’s since 1934, but their chestnuts are really in the fire at the moment.

With the prospect of a follow-on looming large at the end of the second day’s play, the Aussies will need to pull off a Houdini act to survive.

All thoughts of a victory have evaporated on what the Aussies consider to be one of their favourite hunting grounds, and it will need loads of determination and character to hang on.

Only thrice in the past 115 years has a team won a match after following-on

England vs Australia, Sydney, 14 Dec 1894

England vs Australia, Leeds, 16 Jul 1981

India vs Australia, Kolkata, 11 Mar 2001

History is not about to repeat this time, for sure. It will take a lot to even fight back to draw this Test since England has time aplenty to prise out 12 wickets.

The first Test at Cardiff was a totally Aussie show, with the tourists dominating virtually every session, and when England managed to eke out a draw, thanks to a gutsy rear-guard from their last pair, it was, perhaps, much more than a mere match-saver.

Drawing a match is fine, and most teams will accept it in normal course. But, when it is a case of a nail-biting so-near-yet-so-far, it can crush a team and have a devastating effect on the spirit. England might have appeared a trifle sheepish after a miserable show in the first Test, but the impact on the Australians was surely greater. No amount of self-soothing words from the captain and team management can act as a soothing balm.

If there was just that slight opening in the door, the English have spotted and leveraged it to their advantage at Lord’s. Good for them, you might say.

Which is a rather ironic, because there is a lot that is not ok with this England team. If they have put up decent scores in the two Tests of the current series, it has been mainly because of the efforts of a few individuals, rather than a result of a collective will. These have a habit of unraveling quite rapidly when the chips are down, and England can expect a ferocious backlash in the third Test in Birmingham irrespective of whether they win at Lord’s or not.

A lot of questions have been asked about whether this touring Australian team is as balanced as it should be, and the absence of a top quality front line spinner is a factor that cannot be ignored. Much was expected of Mitchell Johnson who was to lead the pace battery, but, apart from a few decent spells, there has not been much to show from the Queenslander.

This Ashes tour has been an interesting one. Much was written about how the Aussies dominated the English bowling in Cardiff, but when the tables were turned at Lord’s and the vaunted batting line-up began to come apart, there was a sense that this was a match that demonstrated that Test cricket was an equal contest between bat and ball, rather than one where batsmen dominate. Operating beautifully in tandem, the English bowled with venom, ambushed the Aussies brilliantly, probed vulnerabilities and exploited chinks in the visitor’s armour.

However, one has to view matters with some caution.

The Aussies do not wear an awesome cricketing reputation on their sleeve merely for showing up at a Test match. And England will ignore this at their peril.

Rather than shaking their heads and wondering about how their reputations have been suddenly inflated, the English will do well to hunker down and plan and execute well.  

There is a lot left in this series, and it would be a brave man who will stick his neck out and predict the outcome.


July 18, 2009 Posted by | About this and that, Cricket | , , , , | Leave a comment

The Hooch tragedy

Over 130 people died in Gujarat recently after consuming hooch.

A lot of noise will be made, platitudes will be trotted out by anyone and everyone who wants a share of the limelight, and the entire matter will be forgotten in double-quick time.

Concern for the fact that life has changed irrevocably for the families of the 131 people who died will vaporize soon.

And, it will be business as usual.

What did these 131 unfortunate victims do? Well, they consumed illicit liquor that contained four times the permitted amount of methyl alcohol.

Prohibition has been in force in Gujarat for over forty years, and the sale of alcoholic beverages is banned. It is not as if alcohol is not available, though. Local laws allow the sale of alcohol to people who obtain a medical certificate from a designated civil surgeon, with the worthy prescribing a dose of liquor for treating ailments.

This is baffling, to say the least, since one needs to stretch one’s imagination to find ailments that can be cured by a daily quota of booze. And, the system bares itself to exploitation as people choose to concoct medical records in connivance with some dishonest members of the medical fraternity.

There are many who argue that imposition of prohibition opens the door to smuggling of alcohol from neighbouring states, with hefty premiums being charged, as a consequence.

Opponents of prohibition also argue that prohibition encourages bootlegging, as people seek alternate ways to obtain their brew.

There are many who insist that prohibition in Gujarat has something to do with the ideals of Mahatma Gandhi – a man who advocated vegetarianism, boycott of foreign goods, etc. Yes, the great man did advocate that the poor needed to be protected from the evils of alcohol, but, from whatever I have read, did not call for total prohibition.

It is also ironic that the Gandhi’s name is being brought into the equation, since there are many other matters advocated by him that have been blatantly and conveniently ignored. 

This is not to say that illicit liquor is sold only in places where prohibition exists. There are several other states where such stuff is brewed, and one does hear horrific reports of people dying after consuming hooch. One of the primary reasons that encourages the production of illicit liquor is the price, since the poor cannot afford to buy the stuff that is manufactured by the organized sector.

Prohibition is fine if it can be strictly enforced – there should be no loop-holes or ways to circumvent the fundamental purpose.

In the absence of such a mechanism, prohibition makes no sense. It has been tried in many other countries and has failed. The U.S.A. tried this immediately after the Great Depression, and repealed it after some years when it was found to be unworkable.

It is a utopian concept to believe that states in India can enforce their moral will. For, consumption of alcohol is a matter of personal choice, and a tippler will find his own sources if he is determined to drink. Prohibiting the sale of alcohol will only drive the business underground, and open up all kinds of unseemly possibilities.

Isn’t it better to keep it legal and incorporate sensible checks and measures to ensure that the system is clean and regulated?

If not, many more will die.

And the debate will rage on every now and then whenever a tragedy, such as that in Gujarat, repeats itself.

July 16, 2009 Posted by | About this and that | , , , | Leave a comment


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