All posts by sam

Words are like weapons. We use them every day, we know not the way they impact on others. We remain silent when we ought o speak out, we speak out when we should hold out peace. This is an attempt to get it right.

Theresa May needs an election now. Else, she may lose even her own seat

After British Prime Minster Theresa May called a snap election on April 18, many journalists have been at pains to suck up to her and paint what is, in fact, a move born of desperation as some kind of astute political gambit.

This, despite the fact that this kind of sucking up to politicians has been, in the main, the reason why newspapers and magazines have gradually lost readership over the last two decades to other more rough-edged publications that speak the unvarnished truth.

The next British election is due in 2020. By then, Britain would have completed negotiations to leave the European Union, a decision the people voted for in a referendum in 2016. Even if things are not completely sewn up, the general points of the deal would be clear by then.

And given that the UK is bound to get the rough edge of the stick — what Australians call a shit sandwich — it is highly unlikely that May will be able to win any election after that.

Indeed, she would be lucky to retain her own seat.

After the talks begin on Britain’s exit, slowly the extent of what it has lost by leaving the EU will become apparent. Both France and Germany, the two major powers in the EU, are extremely annoyed about Brexit and seem determined to give the UK the worst deal they can.

As the conditions laid down by the remaining EU countries become clearer with the progress of negotiations, it will become more and more difficult for May to continue to put on a brave face and say that Britain will get a good deal from the EU.

She has called an election now to guarantee her survival. That is the plain and unvarnished truth.

But journalists are still willing to talk rubbish and write it too.

On the day that May acted, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Europe correspondent Lisa Millar claimed that winning an election would give May a “stronger hand” to negotiate the terms for the UK’s exit from the EU.

This is bunkum of a very high order; May holds a hand with no cards at all and winning the poll on June 8 will only ensure that she is in power for the next five years. It gives her no additional leverage with the rest of the EU.

She thought she could steal a march on the EU by traipsing across the Atlantic and cosying up to the new orange-haired occupant of the White House, but has found that Donald Trump is not overly sentimental about the so-called “special relationship” now that Britain is not part of a much bigger trading bloc.

The newspaper headline below says it much better:

Then we had the delusional Greg Sheridan, the foreign editor of The Australian, who wrote: “Despite May being ahead in the polls, this is the mother of all gambles.” (High-grade rubbish; if she cannot win a poll now, she might as well commit hara-kiri.)

He went on: “She has a stable if narrow parliamentary majority, and three years of the government’s term to run. She has gambled it all.” (Gambled? Sheridan appears to be hallucinating.)

And on: “But as pro-Tory newspaper The Sun put it in three declarative decks of heading the next day: ‘PM’s snap poll will kill off Labour; She’ll smash rebel Tories too; Bid for clear Brexit mandate’.” (When you have to quote from The Sun to back up an argument, that means you have no smoke in your stack.)

There are loads of Anglophiles who still think Britain, — sorry, Great Britain — is still a colonial power when all it is now is the US’s poodle. But then we all need our little delusions to live, don’t we?

When will people like Sheridan ever learn?

The AFR has lost its dictionary. And its style guide. And its subs

The Australian Financial Review claims to be one of the better newspapers in the country. But as is apparent from what follows, the paper lacks sub-editors who can spell or who have any knowledge of grammar.

Fairfax Media has an almighty big style guide, but the AFR seems to have thrown it out, along with any competent sub-editors.

All this is taken from a single article titled “Malcolm Turnbull wins support to water down race hate laws” on 21 March. Just imagine how many screw-ups there are in the entire paper. And the paper still complains it is losing readers. Guess why?

afr_one

In “an” move? Surely that should be “in a move”?

afr_two

“And the strengthen”? That “the” is dangling there like a limp dick in the breeze. Cut it off.

afr_three

“Portrayed” is Mrs Malaprop at her brilliant best. The word is “betrayed”. And “ths” one takes it is “this” with the vowel dropped en route to the screen.

afr_four

Pretense, not pretence. And yanked, not ranked.

afr_left_out

Will? No, it should be would. Usage is always hypothetical and possible.

afr_five

“The legislation” is singular. It cannot be later described as “they are”. The paragraph should read: “The legislation for the change will be introduced into the Senate first and has little prospect of passing because it is opposed by Labor, the Greens and NIck Xenophon.” And it’s Nick, not NIck.

afr_six

Outbursts of anger. Not outburst. Plural as opposed to singular. Got it?

afr_abetz

Not sure how Abetz is being described in the plural. Or did somebody include the obnoxious Cory Bernardi without naming him?

afr_seven

Shadow minister for citizenship and what??? And surely, one uses past tense in sentences like this – had not has?

afr_eight

Here, the word “to” seems to have gone AWOL.

afr_nine

I know Steve Ciobo is a dunce, but should one leave even his sentences dangling like this?

afr_ten

A comma in time saves nine. Just saying.

Australia taking a big risk by playing Cummins

AUSTRALIA is likely to regret pushing Patrick Cummins into Test cricket before he has had a chance to play at least one season of matches in the Sheffield Shield to test out his body.

That Australia is not good at monitoring its players is evident from Mitchell Starc’s breaking down in India. Starc was ruled out of the India series after two Tests, with a stress fracture in his right foot.

As the cricket website espncricinfo has detailed, Starc is no stranger to injuries: he has been suffering from a spate of them right from December 2012.

If the Australian team doctors and physiotherapist could not monitor him enough to prevent his breaking down in what is billed as a series that is even more important than the Ashes, then what hope for Cummins?

Cummins made a spectacular debut in South Africa in 2011, but thereafter he has been hit by injuries one after the other. He made a good showing in the recent Big Bash League, but one has to bowl just four overs per game in that league.

He also played in the one-dayers against Pakistan, but again that is a matter of bowling a maximum of 10 overs.

And one must bear in mind that Cummins’ outings in T20 and ODIs have both been on Australian pitches which are firm and provide good support for fast bowlers as they pound their way up to the crease.

Indian pitches are a different kettle of fish. The soil is loose, and additionally the curators are dishing up spinning surfaces that will help the home team. Nothing wrong with that, every country does it.

But what needs to be noted is that loose soil does not give a fast bowler a good grip as he storms up to the crease. Sawdust does not help much either unless there is a firm foundation.

Cummins has looked good for some time now. But pitching him into the cauldron that is the Australia-India series, especially at this stage, does not seem to be a very sensible thing to do.

Cricket Australia may well like to retain the Border-Gavaskar trophy but should it take a risk with Cummins who is an excellent long-term prospect?

Fingers crossed that one of the faster of today’s bowlers gets through the two remaining Tests in India without anything going wrong. But one has serious doubts on that score.

Steve Smith cheated. Admit it, and move on, mate

ONE of the big problems that people from Western countries have is that they are unable to admit to any wrongdoing when they are caught out in a confrontation with someone from the East.

They are never wrong even when they are caught red-handed. Remember Lance Armstrong?

It is this mentality that prevents Steven Smith, the captain of Australia’s cricket team, from pretending that he was not trying to consult members of his team in the pavilion before deciding whether to have an LBW decision reviewed during the final innings of the second Test against India in Bangalore on Tuesday (March 7).

By the rules of the game, either team has 15 seconds to ask for a review of a decision. While the fielding team can consult among itself, the batsman in question can only ask his batting partner. He cannot look to the pavilion for help.

But this is exactly what Smith did on Tuesday, the fourth day of the Test, when Australia was chasing 188 for a win on a crumbling wicket in Bangalore. He was fourth out at 74, plumb LBW to Umesh Yadav. The ball kept very low and would have hit both middle- and off-stumps.

As he meandered around near the midway point of the pitch, Smith could be seen on TV glancing towards the pavilion. This was so obvious that one of the umpires, Nigel Llong, came over and cautioned him about what he was doing.

Further, former Australian captain Michael Clarke, who was commentating on television, also pointed out what Smith seemed to be doing and said it was not kosher. Former Indian batsman Sanjay Manjrekar and Indian legend Sunil Gavaskar also mentioned it on TV.

Indian captain Virat Kohli did not mince words when he held his post-match press conference.

Now we have James Sutherland, the chief executive of Cricket Australia, sitting in Sydney, about 12 hours flying time from Bangalore, claiming that Smith is the next thing to a boy scout!

This is not the first time Australian batsmen have done this during the Bangalore Test. Others in the team have been caught looking towards the pavilion too, but not so blatantly as Smith did.

Smith is pretending that it was a brain fade. Well, if it was, the whole Australian team better visit a good brain surgeon pretty soon for many of them seem to suffer from these “brain fades”. It could turn out to be something serious.

And the Australians had better bear one thing in mind: the colonial era, when brown men simply saluted and accepted what the white man told them to do, is well and truly over. Virat Kohli and his team belong to a generation that believes it is equal to, or better than, the Australian players.

They are constantly in the face of the Australians; the team from Down Under loves dishing it out, but are prone to start whinging when the chips are down.

Get used to it, mate. ‘Fess up and move on.

‘The terrorist has got another wicket’

Dean Jones is one of those many former Australian cricketers who now earns big bucks as a commentator on the sport. Like many others, he has little of import to say, but takes up 700 or 800 words to do so.

Jones was sacked by Ten Sports in 2006 for making a racist comment about South Africa’s Hashim Amla. But he has slowly crept back, with the Melbourne newspaper The Age helping in his rehabilitation by giving him a weekly column.

One would think that a man who goes around referring to Muslim players as terrorists would be shunned by publications that claim to have standards.

But racism is part of the Australian national fabric and The Age is part of that fabric. Not the overt type of racism, no, the covert type that operates undercover and helps keep white people in positions of authority.

Jones most recent column is typical; he meanders all over the place. It looks like the whole piece is suffering from multiple attacks of schizophrenia. But he fills the space and The Age also gets a “name” to write. That he has nothing of any value to say does not seem to strike the owners of The Age, Fairfax Media. Perhaps this is one reason why The Age is rapidly going downhill.

Back in 2006, Jones was heard live on air calling South Africa’s Hashim Amla, one of the better batsmen in the world, a terrorist, during a Test between Sri Lanka and South Africa in Colombo. Amla took a catch to dismiss Kumar Sangakkara only to provoke this comment from Jones: “The terrorist has got another wicket.”

Jones was sacked by Ten Sports. But he has wheedled his way back.

This kind of racial vilification by Australian cricketers is not unusual. Darren Lehmann, now the coach of the national team, called the Sri Lankan team “Cunts, cunts, fucking black cunts,” when he was run out during a one-day match in Brisbane in 2003.

Exactly what Lehmann thinks of Sri Lankans these days is unknown.

And David Warner, now the vice-captain, played the colonial to the hilt in 2015 during a one-day match against India, when he confronted Rohit Sharma and demanded that the Indian batsman “speak English”.

Not that Warner’s English is top-grade. He is your average Bogan, who is crude, rude and lacks any refinement. But still he feels he can lay down the law to the non-whites.

Exactly why media organisations take in retired cricketers as commentators and writers is unknown. It is an entirely different skill to be able to write or talk in an intelligible and educative manner about any sport. But then many journalists, themselves, are fairly crippled in this regard.

Take the case of Aakash Chopra who was crapping on during the ongoing Test series between India and Australia. Chopra suffers from verbal diarrhoea. Yet, he is there to provide expert comment for Australian listeners. The Indian commentator Prakash Wakankar is, by contrast, very good at his job.

And then there is Simon Katich, a man who has a very limited vocabulary and seems stuck in cliches all the time.

Add to that Adam Collins, who must surely be the most biased of callers, and Gerard Whateley, no slouch in the patriotism stakes, and you have all the makings of another Botany Bay invasion all over again.

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.