Bangladesh should never have got Test status

After Monday’s loss to India in a one-off Test, Bangladesh has now played 98 Tests and won just eight, after being given full Test status in the year 2000.

That is a rather dismal record for any team. They have only beaten Zimbabwe (five times), the West Indies (twice) and England (once). You’d have to ask: why were they ever given Test status?

The answer is rather simple. At that time, the late Jagmohan Dalmiya, a Bengali (from the Indian state of West Bengal), was the chairman of the International Cricket Council. He was the man responsible for the current state of cricket, where meaningless matches are played month after month, ensuring that quantity triumphs over quality.

Dalmiya would never have had any chance of influencing the fortunes of the game had not India won the World Cup in 1983, beating the West Indies in the final. That gave one-day cricket a big fillip in the country, and the very next World Cup was held in the subcontinent, with India and Pakistan jointly hosting the tournament.

In terms of numbers, in terms of fanatical interest, in terms of ensuring crowds for even lowly games, no place is better than the Indian subcontinent. Dalmiya could only press for being given hosting rights after India’s win because with that he could boldly say that there was sufficient interest in the one-day game in his part of the world. Until then, India had rarely been given a chance in the shorter format; one of the more memorable innings by an Indian in one-day cricket was played by Sunil Gavaskar who batted through 60 overs to make 36 not out in a World Cup game.

But after 1983, you could not stop the rise of one-day cricket, with India and Pakistan being pitted against each other whenever possible. This rivalry draws on the historic enmity between the two countries after the partition of the subcontinent in 1947. It is cynical to exploit such feelings, but then Dalmiya was only interested in money.

After Australia hosted the Cup in 1992, the subcontinent got the tournament again in 1996, with Sri Lanka joining to make up a third host. It was after this that the ICC decided that Test teams would play each other in order to be able to declare one team or the other as the top playing nation. Dalmiya was able to push his idea through because with two successful World Cups behind him, he had shown the rest how to really capitalise on the game.

And he could also get a few items on his own agenda through. Bangladesh is East Bengal; it formerly was a part of Pakistan when partition took place. In 1971, Bangladesh became a separate country after a war of liberation. The country has no cricket culture; the game that people there are crazy is about is football.

Bangladeshi cricket officials had good connections to Dalmiya. Hence when it was decided to expand the number of cricket-playing nations with Test status to 10, Bangladesh got the nod ahead of Kenya.

The African nation at that time had a much better team than Bangladesh. And if it had been promoted, many players from South Africa who did not make it to the top would, no doubt, have come over, qualified and played for the country as has happened with Zimbabwe. There are plenty of expatriate Indians in Kenya too.

But ethnic connections take precedence in cricket which had the stink of colonialism for a long, long time. And so Bangladesh made the grade and began to lose Test matches.

To get an idea of the relative merits of teams, look at Sri Lanka. The country was given Test status in 1981. By 1996, it had won the World Cup. That’s because it has a cricketing history, even though it was only a junior member of the cricketing nations. People there are crazy about the game and it is the country’s national sport.

Zimbabwe has fared worse than Bangladesh since it was given Test status in 1992 but then it has suffered badly due to the political instability caused by the dictatorship of Robert Mugabe. In 101 Tests, Zimbabwe has 11 wins and 64 losses; in 98 Tests, Bangladesh has won eight and lost 74.

Cronyism produces mediocrity. The case of Bangladesh is a very good case in point.

Does Steve Smith believe that spin can win matches?

As Australia mentally prepares for a gruelling tour of India, one curious characteristic of captain Stephen Smith is being ignored. This is Smith’s attitude towards spin and spinners when it comes to any form of cricket.

In India, any international team that wants to win a Test series must have a decent spin attack. This has become the case in recent years; the last time a team won in India was when England did so in 2012. They had Monty Panesar and Graeme Swann in their ranks.

During the three-Test series against Pakistan that concluded recently, Smith showed a curious reluctance to give the side’s only spinner, Nathan Lyon, a lengthy stint. He mostly depended on the medium-pacers and since Australia won all three Tests there were no questions raised.

His attitude towards spin was underlined in the second one-day game against Pakistan — in which the visitors registered a win at the MCG after 32 years — where he allowed Travis Head, one of two players who was expected to comprise the spin contingent, just three overs, one of them being the last of the match.

Pakistan bowled first, and 24 of the 50 overs were sent down by spinners. Some of these spin bowlers were part-timers: Mohammad Hafeez, the captain, is also the opening batsman, and Shoaib Malik bats at number five. They managed to contain Australia to 220, on a wicket that had uncertain bounce, but no great degree of turn.

Thus, Smith’s refusal to use spin is rather perplexing, even more so when one considers the fact that Head had bowled 10 overs against Pakistan in the first one-day game and given away just 28 runs.

Head’s first over went for 11 and after that he was kept away from the bowling crease until the 46th over, when it was all over bar the shouting. Pakistan’s winning run came from a wide bowled by Head.

So how will Smith adjust to the reality of spin in India? The Australian squad named for the tour has four spinners in its ranks: Lyon, Steve O’Keefe, Mitchell Swepson and Ashton Agar. How will Smith utilise these resources? He has only three recognised medium-pacers in the team: Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Jackson Bird.

The last time Australia toured India in 2013, it was an unmitigated disaster ending in a 4-0 brownwash. But Lyon did take seven wickets in the final Test in Delhi in a relatively low-scoring game. Glenn Maxwell had 4-127 in the second Test which Australia lost by an innings. Xavier Doherty, the other spinner in the ranks, did nothing to set the Yarra on fire.

Will Smith treat the spinners the same way that he has so far in his career? Will he display the same reluctance to bowl Lyon and the others? This is his first tour of India as captain and while he did play in two Tests on the losing 2013 tour, his experience of the country is very limited.

One aspect of the squad which defies explanation is the selection of a leg-spinner. No leggie, not even Shane Warne, has done well in Indian conditions. (Indeed, Warne has never done well against Indian batsmen, no matter the venue.) Then why take a leggie along, especially an uncapped one? Will he be thrown into the cauldron (and in India the use of the word cauldron is apt) and asked to take five wickets in order to keep his place in the side? Will it be another case of a youngster going along for one tour and then being discarded?

We should have answers to these questions by the end of March.

Big Bash League set for expansion and mediocrity

Cricket Australia is all set to expand the number of Big Bash teams next year – and in the process slowly begin killing the goose that has so far laid many 22-carat eggs.

In its sixth year, the BBL has been an overwhelming success until last year but there are signs that people would prefer that things remain as they are.

For example, the biggest crowd last year was for the clash between the two Melbourne teams, the Renegades and the Stars. A total of 80,883 turned up for the first clash between these two teams in 2015-16.

This year, 2016-17, the crowd for the corresponding game was nearly 10,000 less. Should Cricket Australia not take a hint from occurrences like this? Crowds in 2016-17 have, on the whole, been less than in 2015-16.

As of today, 22 matches have been played; there are another 10 to go before the semi-finals and final. Only in two games, have teams been asked to chase 200 or over. That means only two teams, the Brisbane Heat and the Melbourne Stars, have managed to make 200 or over.

Most of the games have been one-sided. Just two games have gone down to the last ball. Not a single century has been scored.

Overall many of the players seem to be jaded. That is not surprising for there are now so many Twenty20 leagues around the world — Pakistan (played in the UAE), the West Indies, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, India, and Bangladesh all have their own leagues — that many players who are now literally T20 mercenaries come to the BBL after having played in at least a few of these competitions.

If they are mentally tired at the end of the year, who can blame them? They are playing as much as they can for it is their livelihood. They have only a few years in which they can earn money from this form of the game.

The TV commentators make the game unwatchable. There are a host of former Australian players who form the commentary team and to say they are mediocre would be paying them a compliment. T20 cricket itself sees heightened action but these ex-players keep trying to hype up everything. They have limited vocabularies and dumb down things to an incredible level.

Damien Fleming and Adam Gilchrist are horrible at the mike and it is clear that they are there for the money. They were both competent cricketers but have reached their level of incompetence as commentators. Gilchrist makes one cringe, he cannot speak a sentence without acting as an arse-licker of a very high order.

Some of the other commentators have clear conflicts of interest: Mark Waugh is a national selector and it is unethical for him to sit in the commentary box making comments about players whose futures he could well decide. But then one would recall that he is the same person who took money from a bookmaker when he was a player. The same goes for Ricky Ponting who is now an assistant coach for the national T20 team.

But hey, who gives a flying f*** these days? There’s good money available to these poor-quality commentators so they take it and run. Not that they need it. They lack the integrity to act in an ethical way.

Back to Cricket Australia and its expansion plans. One doubts that its chief executive James Sutherland will bother much about whether crowds grow or whether people watch; after all, CA will make its money before a single ball is bowled. The TV contract will increase, the TV channel in question, Channel 10, will welcome the additional games, and all will be right with the world.

This year there are 32 games; each team will play the others and the two Melbourne teams, the two Sydney teams, Adelaide and Hobart, and Brisbane and Perth, will play each other twice. Once the expansion is complete, that number of games will increase. Do people want to see more and more ordinary games that are won by big margins or do they want to see better games that go down to the wire?

Trump’s detractors still trying to prove their worth

The breastbeating in the US isn’t over, not by a long shot. All those experts who were proven wrong in their pre-election pronouncements are continuing their quest to try and show that they were not really wrong.

Among them is Nate Silver, once known as the man who never got anything wrong, and now known as the god who failed. Silver is still continuing to analyse statistics to try and show that he was actually quite correct in his predictions even though he was totally wrong.

Not for nothing is there a hue and cry over fake news in the US.

People are also acting surprised that Donald Trump has switched tracks on many of the election slogans that won him support. This is normal behaviour as a politician will say anything and everything to win. But Americans seemingly do not believe this.

Trump will not build any kind of wall as he promised. No, he will deport as many people as Barack Obama did but make a big show of doing so. It will seem like he is more active in this area than his predecessor. Trump knows how to manage the public much better than many others.

He has already indicated that he not going to “drain the swamp”, or in other words keep Washington insiders out of executive positions in his administration. He has even given a former Google executive, Joshua Wright, a position at the Federal Trade Commission. This is the same Google, whose chairman Eric Schmidt set up a company to provide Hillary Clinton’s technology needs during the campaign.

Trump knows that politics involves wheeling and dealing as he has done all these years in his business endeavours. He will play the game for all it is worth, quietly boosting his own worth even as he attempts to convince the people who are his constitutency that he is doing what is in their interests.

He will want a second term, if only to prove that he is the equal of Barack Obama. Not that Trump is interested to any great degree in politics or a legacy; no, for him it is more about ego. He has proven all the naysayers wrong once and would love to do so again.

The US will not suffer greatly under Trump, though it will continue to become a more rabid and polarised country. But that has been a trend during Obama’s time too.

The world has already seen plenty of fools in the White House. Trump is just one more, with a loud mouth to boot. That makes him look worse than many of his predecessors, but make no mistake the difference with George Bush isn’t all that much.

Donald Trump won. Just get over it

Donald Trump was elected US president on November 8 but nearly three weeks later, people do not seem to have gotten over it.

The cries of woe and anguish continue to be heard in the American media and elsewhere, many of them from the same pundits who never saw it coming.

About the only two prominent Americans who genuinely canvassed a Trump win were the filmmaker Michael Moore and the cartoonist Scott Adams. They made their predictions long before the polls, and stuck true to them right to the end.

Moore tried his best to alert people to the dangers of the poll going to Trump, even putting out an uncharacteristic piece of hagiography titled Michael Moore in Trumpland a few weeks before the election.

But he failed to convince an electorate that had made up its mind a long time before the date.

So why did Trump win?

There are numerous factors that are possible causes. For one, the voting public in the US (and many other countries too) have long ceased to be convinced by facts and figures. There is a simple reason for this: given that most of this data comes from people in authority (politicians, civic leaders, the media, so-called pundits) who lie and lie and lie again, the public have ceased to give anything they say any credence.

So if people are now complaining that the masses are unwilling to deal with facts, you know whom to blame. They will believe anything else, and you really cannot take issue with that. They pick and choose what they will believe.

A second factor that came into play was the opposition candidate herself. Hillary Clinton (and when you say that, Bill is part of the baggage) has loads of baggage and much of it is not very commendatory. During the campaign, there were leaks that showed the Democrats had tilted the balance so that Bernie Sanders, who was a much better candidate and one who would probably have defeated Trump, would not become their nominee. Did that anger probable Democrat voters? Take a guess.

Then there was the strange pattern of campaigning where Clinton did not bother to visit many states which, it was taken for granted, would vote Democrat as they have done so in the past. If there is one thing voters hate, it is to be taken for granted. They gave Clinton the finger. The middle finger.

And why would the Democrats put Barack Obama and his wife out to campaign for Clinton? Obama split the nation right down the colour divide when he won. The second time, he just managed to squeeze through past Mitt Romney. He is not the unifying figure many leftists and intellectuals see him to be; if anything, his election only made race more of an issue in a country where it was already a massive factor in just about everything.

Trump won just by not being a politician. He did not treat the whole thing as a popularity contest, just as an exercise that needed to be won. All those who keep whinging now that Clinton has won the popular vote – it is a waste of time. Winning the election was the name of the game, not winning the popular vote.

Donald Trump has sane supporters too

I have a friend who has been living in the US for the last 30 years. He is an intelligent, rational person who is widely read. We have been close friends for the last 37 years.

He is one of the people who will be voting for Donald Trump on November 8. He went to the US on an H1-B visa.

He wrote what follows, well before Trump’s comments on women came to light. Read, judge if you wish, but ponder: if reasonable, sensible, middle-class people come to these conclusions, there must be something terribly wrong with the social system in the US.

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Religion by itself is not the problem – all religions are, by nature, esoteric and mysterious and, ultimately, a matter of faith. It is the clash of cultures originating from these religions that causes all strife and conflict in our society and all societies on planet earth.

Donald Trump is bringing some strong medicine to this country, and the party elites are scared – that their gravy train is coming to an end, that better trade deals will result in good jobs for minorities, that lobbyists will have to downsize, that waste, fraud and abuse in no-bid military contracts and pharmaceutical purchases are going to stop, and that the immigration rules which determine who, and how many people, can come into this country will undergo some major changes.

“America will be the country we all believe in, we all dream of….” said Chef Andres. The only way to keep that intact is to stop a million new immigrants coming into this nation every year. Already our cities are getting crowded, our roads clogged, and our countryside (what is left of it) is fast disappearing. This has a huge impact on our jobs, our culture, our values, and our standard of living. That is why Trump wants all immigration halted until we come up with a sane immigration policy.

There was a time when this country could use a lot of immigrants. That time has passed. Allowing a million immigrants each year is mass migration. That is like taking over a country without a war. If you are supporting Hillary Clinton and open borders, then we no longer need a military. What is there to protect?

By the same token, Clinton and all her supporters should get rid of the doors in their houses, so that anyone can come in and stay and help themselves to anything they want. You have to get real.

This election is about the choice between open borders and controlled borders, between having a country and not having one. It is also about the choice between insider career politicians who are beholden to big moneyed special interest groups, and Trump, the outsider, who cannot be bought. Godspeed Trump!

It is time for change. Time for a non career politician to step in and stop the 1 million immigrants flooding into this country every year; eliminate ISIS, and build safe havens so like-minded people can live in their own countries; and work the room with our elected representatives and develop consensus around the public agenda and not around what Wall Street wants.

In 2014, 1.3 million foreign-born individuals moved to the United States, an 11 per cent increase from 1.2 million in 2013. India was the leading country of origin, with 147,500 arriving in 2014, followed by China with 131,800, and Mexico with 130,000.

Trump is the only one standing between us and the millions of new immigrants who are coming in each year and having an impact on our jobs, our values, and our culture. Vote for change!

Automation is one reason, and immigration (H1-B abuse) and outsourcing are the other main reasons for job losses in the US.

Clinton has no clue on how to address the former, and — considering her donor class — she has no interest in addressing the latter.

Good negotiators are not necessarily good debaters. How else would you explain Barack Obama who is a gifted public speaker, but could not for the life of him work the room with his opposition in it? If debating skills were the basis for selecting a president, the people would have voted for Ted Cruz who is a better debater than Hillary. No, what this country needs is a good negotiator, not a debate champion.

Thousands of people are ripping into Trump for not speaking like a politician. And yet deep down inside they know that he is the only one standing between them and the millions of new immigrants who are coming in each year and taking over their jobs, their values, and their culture.  Vote for change.

Trump’s favourite Bible verse is 1 John 4:12: “No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God remains in us, and His love is perfected in us.”

Notable takeaways from a recent Trump speech:

“Hillary Clinton is the last line of defence for a failed political establishment and she does not have you at heart. The Clinton campaign exists for one reason, and that is to continue rigging the system. We will break up the industrial-media complex. That is why I am running – I will be your greatest voice ever.

“They go to the same restaurants, they go to the same conferences, they have the same friends and connections, they write cheques to the same thinktanks, and produce exactly the same reports. It’s a gravy train and it just keeps on flowing. On November 8 that special interest gravy train is coming to a very abrupt end.

“The insiders in Washington and Wall Street look down at the hardworking people like you, like so many people in this state, like so many people in this county. But you are the backbone, your are the heart and soul of the nation. Don’t ever forget it folks.”

The reasons why I am voting for Trump, shown in the order in which things need to be fixed in this country:

Issue 1. Our rigged economic and political systems – Issues 2-6 have remained unsolved for decades because the special interests who control our rigged system proactively stop any solution from being adopted. Only Trump can fix this.

Issue 2. The flagging economy 𔃀 caused by both automation and globalisation. Prosperity can be more widely spread if we negotiate good deals both within and outside this country. Trump will bring good negotiators into our government.

Issue 3. Unfettered immigration – bringing in a million immigrants a year is transforming this nation into a Third World country. Everything from birthright citizenship to safe zones for war-torn countries must be examined.

Issue 4. Minorities – we need to provide a hand up to minority communities. Wasted and under-utilised human resources are one of the primary reasons/sources for crime in many of our cities.

Issue 5. Healthcare – costs need to brought down and basic services made available to every citizen. There is enough money in the system, it just needs to be managed better.

Issue 6. Debt overhang – we need to write down the debts — both credit card and college loans — held by ordinary citizens. This will also help the economy (Issue 2).

The elimination of waste fraud and abuse will cut across many of the above issues. That, and bringing competent people into our government who can deliver on the public agenda, will surely make our country great again. I cannot wait for Trump to arrive in our capital.

The time has arrived for a literary fraud to resurface

One of the many big-noters in India has announced her return to the literary scene with a novel about the uprising in Kashmir. Coming 20 years after her only other effort, Arundhati Roy’s 2017 publication has already received enough hype to make one puke.

Since her book The God of Small Things was surprisingly awarded the Man Booker Prize in 1997, Roy has been involved in activism, written essays and numerous articles. One has to be grateful that she did not attempt a second novel. Her first effort was terrible; author Carmen Callil, chair of the 1996 Booker jury, pronounced Roy’s work “execrable”, and said it should never have reached the shortlist.

I’m willing to bet that the second book will be an even greater success than the first; in this day and age frauds succeed much better than they did in 1997.

Below is the review I wrote at the time; it is no longer on the Internet as the site hosting it died an unnatural death.

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An Indian writer has received an advance of half a million pounds for her first novel, The God of Small Things. Great stuff, one would say, it proves there is talent in the country. The hype that has necessarily accompanied this has obscured the novel to a large extent. There are reviews floating all over the Web, some of them written by people who have not even read the book. The very fact that an Indian author has received a six-figure advance for a first novel necessarily means that the book must be good – thus runs the logic. It makes for even better copy when the writer is a woman.

A number of Indian publications have gloated over the novel. The customary interviews have taken place with the writer and the usual pithy sayings have emerged. It is time to look a bit more closely at this publishing “feat”, the circumstances of the writer and the actual content of the book. One must remember first of all that this year marks the 50th anniversary of Indian independence; indeed, it is a nice time for a British publishing house to give an Indian author such an honour. Good timing to expiate some of the guilt surrounding the act of partition of the subcontinent.

The author, Arundhati Roy, is the daughter of one Mary Roy, a women who gained her own measure of notoriety by challenging the Christian inheritance law some years ago in Kerala. Mary won her case and thus became an icon for feminists in India. Mary Roy, however, was not the best of mothers; she kicked her daughter out at the age of 18 and the girl thus had to fend for herself. It is not, therefore, surprising that Arundhati has constantly tried to gain her mother’s attention by various means and show her parent that she can succeed on her own as well. A large number of so-called great works have come about because a man feels he has something to prove to his parents.

Arundhati has lived on the edge of the so-called intellectual circuit in Delhi, a city which is a ball of hot air. Her first marriage to an architect ended in divorce and she is now married to a photographer by whom she has two children. She has tried her own attention-getting tactics — berating Shekhar Kapoor over his film Bandit Queen was the latest gimmick — and has, to some extent, gained a fair measure of publicity. Now comes this novel, which, if we are to believe the writer, did not require a single correction (there is a silly line which she has used to explain this: “one does not re-breathe a breath”) and in the space of five years. In other words, this spontaneous creation took a fairly long period of time. Does sound a bit like constipated genius.

Now to the novel itself. It is the story of a family who hail from a village in Kerala, one which Roy chose to call Ayemenem. The story is told within an uncertain time-frame which winds itself back and forth and anyone searching for structure within this book will be disappointed; the writer has an excuse – it is like a work of architecture, she says, and the form develops in any direction. There is plenty of detail in the 350-odd pages; the English is stuffed stupid with a surfeit of similes, most of them very poor ones. There is a bid to copy Salman Rushdie but it does not work; the use of language is stilted and and some words are so obviously contrived that they are out of place when used. Roy would have one believe that this work is spontaneous but the truth is that it is contrived and rather badly at that. It is so obviously wrung out of herself that any claim that this novel was lying dormant within herself just waiting to be written must be taken with loads of salt.

The God of Small Things is seen from the perspective of seven-year-old Rahel. She and her twin brother, Estha, live with their mother, Ammu, who was married to a Bengali from whom she is divorced. Ammu and the twins live in the Ayemenem house with their grandmother, uncle and grand-aunt Baby. The family owns a pickle factory that comes into conflict with the Communists. The family is awaiting the arrival of Sophie Mol, the twins’ half-English cousin and the book drifts back and forth to the arrival and the aftermath of the death by drowning of Sophie Mol and an ill-fated love affair between Ammu and the untouchable Velutha. Rahel returns to Ayemenem as an an adult to a decimated household, a dysfunctional twin and a decaying house.

Were a Keralite to read this book, he or she would obviously understand the setting and a lot of social surroundings. An outsider may find it exotic but that is all. In this sense, the book is insular in the extreme; there are splashes of Malayalam here and there and despite the feeble attempt at translation, the real meaning of the phrase is often hidden. Roy obviously has a huge narcissistic streak and ensures that the reader will identify her as the girl Rahel; whether this is intended to tell the reader that everything, including the incestuous relationship Rahel has with her twin, was also part of Roy’s life is unclear. This is a totally unnecessary twist to the book.

The story line is quite predictable; the death of a child and the love affair between a woman of the higher caste and an untouchable are standard fare in many an Indian novel. The only difference here is that this affair is suddenly sprung on the reader and it cannot be logically deduced; indeed, logic is a major casualty in this novel. There is a process of development in any book but there seems to be none in this book and, in my opinion, it is highly over-rated. One thing which puzzles me no end is the fact that Penguin India did not publish it; David Davidar has been the face of Indian publishing in English and his laconical explanation, “it wasn’t offered to us,” does not answer the question. Davidar is one who has chased after any writer whom he feels has the slightest chance of being a success. Why he did not choose to do so with Roy is a mystery.

Logic will not help to defeat Trump

As the US election process approaches its endgame, there are growing fears that the candidate whom many see as the less attractive of the two available options will end up winning.

This is a legitimate fear. Nobody thought that Donald Trump would end up as the Republican presidential nominee when the whole process began. And given that Hillary Clinton is not exactly the most popular of Democrat nominees, the fears are even greater now that her opponent may end up being inaugurated on January 20.

But in the process, simple logic appears to have deserted the so-called thinking classes in the US and in many other countries. Journalists, politicians, community leaders, sportspeople – they all seem to think that if they speak out about the foibles they see as being the entirety of Trump, then they will be able to influence others to come over to their side and ensure a Clinton win.

They seem to be banking on information — data — winning the day, on convincing the undecided ones by using the media to out Trump as the worse of the two options.

This indicates a startling kind of naivety, an inability to understand why Trump is the candidate. People have been fed up with professional politicians for a long time; these are the classes who promise everything but the moon and only look after a certain class once they gain power.

This time, there are lots of people who have made up their minds that they are going to stick it to the establishment. After the war in Iraq, after the 2008 financial crisis, they are convinced that professional politicians can do them no good.

Backing Trump does not mean that they like him, or even any of his policies. He is just the Molotov cocktail that they throw at the rest of the political class.

The level of bigotry in the country is catered to by Trump, who has said some of the most xenophobic things that any politician has uttered. He knows that these sentiments represent the unhappiness that many in the US are feeling. He also knows that they cannot express these sentiments.

You cannot fight bigotry with information, You cannot fight something which exists in the heart through a process that is aimed at the brain. That is something those trying to swing the election must realise.

One can understand the fear among the educated classes and minorities whom Trump has spoken out against. If Trump did become the president, they know that they could be targeted, their country’s image would suffer, that he would undertake at least some actions which could cause the US to suffer economically. And, by extension, they would suffer too.

Hence their panicked reaction is not to be sneered at. But is it going to help defeat Trump? The type of people who support Trump are highly unlikely to be brought around by the arguments advanced by the mainstream media. These are the establishment sorts whom those who have fears about their livelihood, their jobs, hate with a passion.

In their eagerness to cast aspersions on Trump, they could well end up pushing people to give them the finger and cast a vote for someone whom they would not vote otherwise.

AFL has plenty going for it, apart from the commentators

Australian rules football is an acquired taste. Only someone who has grown up with it can get used to a game that is played in an oval field, one which appears to have few, if any, rules, and one which allows players from one side to obstruct their opponents and not incur any penalty.

But even an outsider can appreciate the degree of physical effort required to last 80 minutes of actual playing time; this means that a game takes about two hours to be completed.

What spoils the game to a large extent is the hyper-ventilating commentators who tend to exaggerate everything when there is often no need to do so; the action on the field speaks for itself.

This was illustrated well in the finale of the 2016 season as the Western Bulldogs recorded just their second cup win in the AFL championship in a frenetic game against the much more fancied Sydney Swans.

So tight was the contest that no points were scored in the first 7½ minutes of the first quarter – but then Bruce Macavaney, a commentator who is prone to verbal diarrhoea, had to stretch that out and claim that there had been no score for half of that quarter.

Australian commentators are always trying to improve on things that are best left alone.

The one decent commentator in the game, Dennis Commetti, is leaving after this final. The rest of the pack is made up mostly of ex-players who have poor vocabularies; while they have knowledge about the game, they lack the verbal verve and panache needed to excel in commentating.

A game like this final could well have done with a few better commentators to aid Commetti. The lead changed hands often: Sydney got the first points and led 8-0 but then by the end of the first 20 minutes were trailing 8-12. The Bulldogs stretched this lead out to 31-15 before Sydney came back to lead 33-31 and hold on to lead 45-43 at the main break.

In the third quarter, the Dogs were ahead again after three minutes, 49-46; Sydney went ahead 53-51 after 11 minutes, before the Bulldogs moved ahead at 57-53 at the 13½-minute mark and held on to lead 61-53 at the last break.

The Dogs never surrendered the lead thereafter, even though Sydney closed to 60-61 after 6½ minutes of the final quarter and again to 66-67 nine minutes into the term. When the score leapt to 88-67 with 2½ minutes left, even the Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge came down from his coaching box to the perimeter of the field as he knew it was all over bar the shouting.

Rarely was there any let-up as the Bulldogs, a group of mostly young, inexperienced players were not overawed by their more hardened opponents who have figured in three finals in the last five years. Sydney also boasts the highest-paid player in the AFL, forward Lance Franklin, who joined them three years ago on a $9 million nine-year deal.

Franklin was treated roughly by the Dogs and an ankle injury in the first five minutes did not help him in any way; he kicked just one goal and had limited impact on the game. The Bulldogs played well to a man; they have no big names in their ranks but some who excelled in this game are sure to become household names in seasons to come.

The Bulldogs last won a cup in 1954. They have played in only three finals, including this year’s game. And they are the first team to win after finishing seventh in the regular home-and-away season; the top eight of the 18 teams in the league play finals and the bottom four have to win four games over consecutive games to finish on top.

If only there had been a few more commentators to make the game that much more memorable – or simply stay silent.

Comedy Central screwed up badly by appointing Trevor Noah

It is difficult to think that a company like Comedy Central, which has been so successful in commissioning comedy shows that satirise the news, could make a mistake like it did in 2015 when it let Jon Stewart go with an election around the corner.

It is impossible to believe that the company could not have persuaded Stewart to stick on and go after the November 8 voting took place this year. Perhaps it thought that its choice of replacement, South African Trevor Noah, would be able to find his groove after a few months.

In media outlets here and there, the reason advanced for bringing in a younger host is said to be the need to attract a younger audience; the argument made is that Stewart’s audience was mostly a 45+ demographic while Noah, just 31 at the time he took over, would pull in the crowd below 40, a group that the management deems to be a wealthier demographic and what it needs as it looks to the future.

But if that was the expectation, then it has not been realised. Audiences for The Daily Show, which Stewart nurtured into one of the top-rating shows in the US, have fallen by as much as 40 percent. Comedy Central says it is not worried because the profile of the audience has changed as it wanted. But Noah himself is proving to be a poor replacement as host.

It is true that practically anybody would look bad besides Stewart who, over the 19 years that he was the host, made the show into a vehicle for both satirising the news and also for often conducting more serious journalism during his half-an-hour than most TV anchors and interviewers manage in a month of Sundays.

His interviews with that serial spreader of falsehoods, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and the great New York Times liar Judith Miller, the latter of Scooter Libby leak fame, are masterpieces which any TV journalist would be proud to own.

He also nurtured a whole band of talented artists: John Oliver, Stephen Colbert and Samantha Bee all have their own shows now. Any of them would have been a better replacement for Stewart than Noah.

Noah’s shortcoming is just not that he is not an American. Oliver is British but has learnt more about American politics than many American hosts have. No, Noah’s talent lies in stand-up and not the more serious sort of comedy which The Daily Show made its own; he is the equivalent of Canadian Russell Peters who can provoke a good belly-laugh but does not make the viewer think.

At times, watching Noah on The Daily Show these days is a painful exercise. He struggles to move from one topic to another and tries various gimmicks to gain traction, all of which tend to fail. His interview skills are poor and he has the same lines in his opening every single night.

It would not surprise me if the election is Noah’s last stand and the management decides on a change after January 20 next year.

Personal opinions from a denizen of a land down under.