Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Australia bites the dust and hands over the "Ashes"

England have done it. They have regained the Ashes from the Aussies. Ask any Englishmen or an Oz and they will tell you that they value the "Ashes" more than their life. So, it was no surprise to see the English players in seventh heaven after inflicting a crushing defeat to Australia in the final cricket test at the Oval on Sunday the 23rd August 2009.

As expected, this series was also a close fought battle but failed to reach great heights qualitatively as the 2005 series did in England. Statistically, the Aussies did much better in batting and bowling- six of the top seven run- getters were the Aussies and the three top wicket takers were also from their team. But, as the English skipper Andrew Strauss said" when we played bad, we played very bad and when we played good, it was good enough". The crucial period of the games which counted was won by the English team and that turned the tide.

The Australian media and the critics are trying to find the scapegoats in the form of selectors and the captain Ricky Ponting. It would be better if they introspect instead and start building a new team for the future. The arrogance of Hayden, the solidity of Langer at the top of the order, the belligerence of Gilchrist, the nagging accuracy of Macgrath and the guile of Shane Warne were missing. Add to this the genius of Andrew Symonds who was sacked on disciplinary grounds, you are left with a team which is woefully short on experience. But there need be no panic but a clear plan and time frame for rebuilding a team.Cricket Australia will have to concentrate on this and one can see the resurrection of the Australian team.

The final test also saw the talismanic Flintoff bidding farewell to test cricket. Injuries have shortened his career but he was very much instrumental in England winning the Ashes this summer.
It was good to see the Series bringing in lots of crowds in all the five tests. It is high time the ICC starts thinking in grouping the strong teams together and the minnows in another group. For test cricket to survive it has to provide intense , tough and quality cricket. Otherwise, it will be a matter of time when test cricket would be a " has been".

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Budget India 2009-10

As the Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee rose to present the Budget in Parliament at 11a.m on the 6th of July,2009, the stock market shot up in hope and expectations. 90 minutes later, when he was winding up his Budget speech, the Market fell by more than 5%- the biggest fall ever on a budget day-. An analysis of the Budget would reveal that it is a well balanced budget aiming for growth through increased expenditure and satisfying the social sectors as promised in the UPA's manifesto.

Then why did the market tank? Firstly, the market movement should not be taken as a yardstick to judge the overall budget. Probably a lot of hype was built around this budget by the media stating it to be the "Big Budget" especially after the ease with which the Congress won the Elections.The media made it look that without the "Left party", there was no hurdles left. The Economic survey report which was tabled a couple of days prior to the Budget day did not help matters as it laid out a grand vision for India but without any time frame or road map.

The Budget per se tried to increase domestic demand by putting money in the hands of the rural people and allocating spends on Infrastructure. The NREGA scheme(National rural employment guarantee scheme), abolition of Surcharge in income tax, abolition of the fringe benefit tax etc.. would create wealth in the hands of the people and would increase spending. For the first time, the Budget provides for Rs ten lakh crores(Rs 10 trillion) expenditure. The revenues at Rs six lakh crore(Rs 6 trillion) makes the Fiscal deficit at 6.8% of the GDP( Rs.58 trillion). This obviously is a huge figure which is to be made up by borrowings.

Certain facts emanate out of this deficit. The huge borrowings would push the Bond yields up and the interest rates to harden. With the Government borrowing so much , will it elbow out the private sector borrowings? The growth can never fructify without the private sector participation. The government's stated policy is also to go in for public-private sector partnership(PPP).

It was also praiseworthy that the Finance minister did not take the retrograde step of rolling back the excise duty cuts he unfolded just prior to the elections as part of the economic stimulus package. What was missing was a clear road map for disinvestment in PSU's and the participation of FDI's(Foriegn direct investment) in Banking and Insurance sectors. One is pretty sure the Government would go in for disinvestment to raise the necessary fund but Pranab Mukherjee could have articulated this better.

Of course, the choice before the Finance Minister was to either please the FII's(Foriegn Institutional investors) with deep pockets or the 1.2 billion Indians. The Minister chose the latter and rightly so.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Roger Federer creates history

July 5, 2009 and history was created at Wimbledon when Roger Federer went past Pete Sampras' record of 14 Grand slam titles. For a fleeting moment after the 2008 Wimbledon loss to Nadal and during the earlier part of this year, Federer had this strange churn in his stomach that he might have met his nemesis. He took a break from the game to get over his back problem and came back all the more stronger to win his first French open title which he was craving for. He had to prove it more to himself that he could win in all types of surface.

15 Grand slams titles, 20 Grand slam finals, 80% all time win record. What else can one do better? Looks virtually impossible for anyone to match this performance, let alone surpass it and mind you, he is still not through yet. The statistics by themselves are mind boggling but even for a purist, Roger stands out as the best the game has ever produced. The grace, elegance and poise he brings to the game- both on and off the court- can hardly be matched. He demolishes his opponents with such grace that they hardly seem to notice it and more so don't seem offended by the ease with which it is mostly done.

The moment he won the French open, the arguments on who is the best ever tennis player ceased to exist. It is almost as if God created him to embody all that tennis is. The greatness in his play is how he positions himself to play the stroke. In that remains the secret of his success.

Andy Rodick was the most unfortunate person on July 5, 2009. He played a game of his lifetime. Actually, he was better than Federer that day but it was not his day. Federer had a date with history and the Lord of grass made it his own.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

"The King of Pop" is dead

Michael Jackson-"The King of Pop"- is no more. Newspaper reports suggests that he died of cardiac arrest on Thursday the 25th at L.A. Whether persistent use of painkillers and drugs had any effect on his death is a matter of speculation and it will be sometime before the facts come out.

His was a story of rags to riches and possibly culminating in financial troubles towards the end. As a child,by his own admission, he was at the receiving end of "child abuse" by his father. Strangely enough, in his later years he was to be embroiled in "child sexual abuse" case from which he was acquitted.

He started his performance when in the early teens with his siblings in "Jackson 5". Later he broke away and opted for solo performances as people spotted his enormous talent. Albums came in plenty with "Thriller"(best selling album of all time), "Billie Jean", "Beat It" etc..An entertainer par excellence, his "moonwalk" on stage would send millions of fans into delirium and frenzy. But fame and money came at a price. Stardom could never give him happiness. He was in his own world with a strange and unexplainable fear. Health and stress was taking a toll and he took to drugs and painkillers.

His image took a beating on alleged "child sexual abuse" and towards the end had to sell his house to partially overcome financial problems. He was planning for one last tour of London during early July09 where he was to have given fifty concerts. But death knocked early to spoil the party.

Michael set a trend like no one else . An icon by any standards, he redefined music to the world like never before.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Beware Australia, thou shall be the loser

Australia has been a country where racism has been always simmering within for many years now. Asians and Indians have been at the receiving end but what has happened recently to the Indian students is deplorable. The month of May 09 has seen several incidents of brutal assaults on Indians. If a foreign tourist is raped or robbed in India, the Indian media highlights the issue to such an extent that proper attention is given to rectify the deeds. However, one finds the Australian police, media and even the Government is underplaying the dastardly events that have happened to the Indian students. It is abundantly clear that these are racial attacks by a bunch of hooligans and thugs and the Indians are singled out. It is shameful that incidents of violence happens in public places like trains or railway stations and the public are mere passive onlookers. The gang is rejoicing and celebrating this as " Indian hunting month". Under these circumstances, it is shocking that the Australian authorities are treating these as "one of those incidents" and putting the blame on Indians being "soft targets".
The Australian government is more interested in preserving their "tourism image" and the fund flow to their educational institutions. There are approximately 100,000 Indian students in Australia to further their studies and they cough up Rs. 20,000 crores( Rs.200 billion) as their tuition fees and living expense. It is high time the Australian government takes sterner measures against the perpetrators of violence and ensure such incidents do not recur. Else, there won't be any takers for the courses that their Universities offer. They shall be the loser. A strong campaign is now going on in India not to go to Australia for higher studies thanks to the racism being perpetrated by some gangs there.
The Indian goverment is bringing a lot of pressure on their Australian counterpart. The sooner they bring about a permenant solution, the better it is for Australia. People talk about human rights violations. The western world act like big brothers to point out flaws in human rights violations in India, China and the developing world. But not a whisper is raised when such things are happening in developed countries like Australia. Different rules for different people. If this is not a sham, what is it?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

LTTE Supremo Prabhakaran dead

It's official now. The Sri Lankan Government has confirmed that the LTTE Supremo Velupillai Prabhakaran has been shot dead. With his death the final frontier has come down and the LTTE has been flushed out. The Sri Lankan army was bent upon wiping off the LTTE from the face of their country.In the process lots of innocent Tamil civilians lost their lives due to indiscriminate bombings. Lots more have been rescued but what is more important now is to see their rehabilitation.

LTTE was a terrorist organization. Even though they started as a product of the Tamil problem in Sri Lanka, they lost their way down the line in their demand for Tamil Ealam. The leaders of the LTTE promised their cadres the moon and in the process the pressure mounted on them.It became apparent that there could not be a negotiated settlement.

The war is over but for peace to return, the SL government will have to find a political settlement for the Tamils.Without this, the government will give governance a go by.The sooner this aspect is sorted out the better it will be for all parties concerned.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Indian voters give thumbs up to Congress

The biggest democracy in the world-India- went to the polls and gave a clear verdict for a stable government. 350 million people cast their votes and much against the predictions of the psephologists, the voters gave thumbs up to the United Progressive Alliance( UPA). The voting was conducted over five phases through electronic voting machines and the results were out in a flash on the 16th May.

In the last UPA government, the left parties( communists) were the stumbling block for any reforms. The voters this time around probably realized this and gave the present UPA( with congress being the main party & without the left parties) a clear mandate.The congress can celebrate the verdict but along with the victory comes a lot of responsibilities. The Indian public would now expect the government to go ahead with its reforms and take the country forward.

The immediate areas to be looked into would be Infrastructure development,handling of the huge fiscal deficit, Rural development, poverty alleviation through job creation and skill development. The government will have it's hands full but also has a great opportunity to prove it's worth.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

IPL gets underway in South Africa

IPL T20 cricket-Edition II- kicked off in the Rainbow country South Africa on the 16th of April.Funny that the Indian Premier League had to be played outside of India. Can anyone imagine Wimbledon being played in, say, India? But, considering the fact that the dates for the "slam bang" version of the game clashed with the Indian polls,the security arrangements for the elections obviously took precedence over IPL.

Full marks to the IPL commissioner Lalit Modi for making all necessary arrangements in three weeks time to shift the tourney to South Africa. The host country also deserves full praise.The response to the tournament in South Africa was fantastic.The atmosphere was carnival and the players were taken out in motorcade in Capetown. These were superbly organized and so was the opening ceremony with the African drum beats and the fireworks.

The initial matches have not evoked that much interest in India. Maybe because the "emotional connect" was missing but more so due to the poor weather conditions curtailing even the already curtailed version of the game. Also,some funny innovations have been introduced to the game which breaks the momentum, eg, the seven and half minutes " strategy break" after 10 overs is a big sham. Most players have objected to it and rightly so. This break is mainly created for the benefit of sponsors who can use it for TV ads for product promotion.

I hope that the matches get tight and have close finishes. That would enhance viewer interest and the TRP ratings. There is still a lot of matches to go but from what i have seen from the early games, my pick for the semi-finals would be Chennai, Mumbai, Delhi and Deccan. My winners pick would be Mumbai. I believe they have the most balanced side.
Lets wait and watch. we will know in a months time.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Polling gets underway in the most populous democracy in the world-India

The first phase of the polling to nominate a party at the centre has come to an end today. By the time the other phases of the polling get over,it would be another month. There is a definite sense of uneasiness among the leading parties. Broadly there are three fronts in the fray-The United Progressive Alliance(UPA)with Congress as the main party,The National Democratic Alliance(NDA)with the BJP as the leading party and the third front comprising the Communist parties and Regional parties.

Regional parties are becoming stronger by the day and are likely to be the King makers in forming the Government at the centre.The first phase of polling has seen very poor voter turnout. Whether it is because of peak summer or a general apathy of the public remains to be seen. But the voters are getting fed up and frustrated with the parties for how little they have done or achieved.

I am pretty sure that none of the three fronts are going to get an absolute majority and it will be a hung parliament. But come mid May when the results are announced, one can see frenzied activities among parties having parleys to tie up an alliance. Individual parties would jump from one front to another to piggyback with the possible ruler of the country. Shame, principles and policies have no place in politics and shuttling to and fro to gain and lend favours are the norm.

With so much of "horse trading" likely to go on after the results, one hopes to have a "stable" government.

Friday, April 10, 2009

41 years victory drought in New Zealand ends

Dhoni's men did what no other Indian cricket team did for the last 41 years in New Zealand( NZ).Yes! Dhoni's team went, saw and conquered the lion in it's own den. Team India won the one day series 3-1 and also won the three test match series 1-0. It could well have been 2-0 had not the rain Gods taken pity on NZ.

NZ was always a nemesis for the Indian team. The cold and blustery wind and the seaming pitches were always a matter of extreme discomfort for the Indians in earlier years. But the present team didn't carry any baggage of the yesteryears and went with an attitude to win. True, the pitches in NZ this time were more like sub-continent stuff except in Wellington where it was cold and gusty winds and the NZ team looked like a 'work in progress' side.But our batsmen and bowlers did their part to perfection in grinding the opposition to the dust.

Team India is well on it's way to staking a claim for the No.1 spot in world cricket. All they have to gaurd against is a feeling of complascency. Under " captain cool' Dhoni, one believes that the No.1 spot is not very far off.

Best Wishes

Friday, April 3, 2009

G-20 agrees to regulatory crackdown

The much awaited G-20 came and went by. There were lots of apprehensions that the divide between U.S.A and the EU on the methodology of economic stimulus may derail the Summit. However, saner sense prevailed and with a lot of behind the scene activity and persuasion, an effective agreement was dished out.

The world leaders agreed on stricter limits on Hedge funds, Executive pay, credit-rating companies and risk taking banks. They also bolstered IMF and offered cash to revitalize trade to help governments tide over the economic turmoil. More than $ 1 trillion was pledged in emergency aid to cushion the global economic debacle. This is apart from the $5 trillion already planned by nations as stimulus package till 2010.

The rules of capitalism are being rewritten where governance and regulation are the watch words rather than blind speculation and non-transparency. Tax haven nations might be a thing of the past or they have to be transparent in providing information. The G-20 have vowed to” name and shame” nations resorting to protectionism.

One hopes that with these measures and much more to follow in the months to come, the economy will slowly but steadily limp back to normal at least in 2010. Free market per se is welcome. However, greed coupled with pure speculation and irrational exuberance is a sure recipe for disaster. People seem to have realized this now and it is fondly hoped that the mistakes committed by the developed world is not repeated again.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Terror hits Cricket

The dastardly act of attacking the SriLankan cricketers poses a serious question whether International cricket will take place in Pakistan at all hereafter. Cricketers world over are shaken by this act of terrorism in Lahore, Pakistan. It was sheer providence that the SL cricketers escaped with minor injuries but the whole lot looked shaken and terrified by what hit them.

India was supposed to have gone to Pakistan to play cricket during January but the Indian Government rightly decided to call off the trip after the Mumbai 26/11 incident. It was clear that security measures leaves a lot to be desired in Pakistan especially when the State doesn’t seem to have control. The Taliban and allied forces pose a grave threat and the present Government in Pakistan doesn’t seem to have a clue in tackling such a situation.
The Government in Pakistan will have to wake up to realities and act tough lest they lose face with the International community. Terrorist camps and organization in Pakistan will have to be erased and terrorism should be nipped in the bud. The proximity of Pakistan poses a serious threat to India especially with the freewheeling terrorist and organization. One hopes that the Pakistan Government realizes the seriousness of the situation and act accordingly and swiftly to wipe out terrorism in the area

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Who says Satyam means "Truth" in Satyam Computers?

Satyam is a sanskrit word meaning "Truth". When the erstwhile chairman of Satyam Computers, Ramalinga Raju, made a shocking revelation that for years the company's accounts have been fudged to the extent of Rs.7000 crores(Rs.70 billion), Brand Satyam came crashing down in the corporate world and "Truth" got brushed away and buried deep in the annals of Satyam.

Raju in his letter states that except he and his brother who was the M.D, no one else was involved in the scam. This is too simply stated. A scam of this magnitude looks impossible without a coterie of people involved. The CFO has to be a party and it is naive to believe that the Auditors-Pricewaterhouse- could be kept in the dark for so many years.
The Govt. will have to put an Administrator and a team to fully go into the Books of accounts. The interim team's(recommendd by Raju) financial powers should be forthwith removed and they should only take care of the client process.

Whether money has been siphoned out of the system will have to be looked into. There will be a lot of legal liabilities and a severe erosion in the credibility. Hence, it becomes necessary to expedite the process of unearthing the facts and to roll out action plans for normal functioning. The employees of Satyam would be going thro' hell. It is imperative that the new team takes care of their interests.

One hopes that this is a one off incident in the corporate world. But, it may be foolish to think so. Lot more regulations will be in the offing to prevent such scams and ensure shareholders interests are protected. One thought would be to have a peer audit. However, one should not forget that too many regulations would also create Red tape which is in no one's interests.

The guilty should be punished and sent to serve in jail. It is such punitive measures that can act as a deterrent.

Friday, January 2, 2009

The year 2008- A reflection

Another year has gone by and the way the year has panned, most people would be happy its over and done with.More often than not, US takes center stage for new products and innovations. So it happened this time too. Only thing they will be remembered for all the wrong reasons- the sub prime crisis, the fancy derivatives churned out by the so called "whiz kids" of management- spelt doom for the economy not confined to the States but to the whole world.Big names like Lehman brothers, Washington Mutual, Meryl Lynch folded up and others like AIG, Citi bank and the Auto giants virtually touched bankruptcy and had to be bailed out with Government doles. Their shares have plummeted so low that they have become worthless papers.

In most world markets, the secondary capital markets hit a peak by Jan 2008 and also lost between 60-70% market capitalization in 7-8 months.The US had its worst holiday sales in five years, consumer confidence at a 41 year low and unemployment at a 15 year high. Clearly in recession for the last one year but it took the government till september2008 to say the dreaded 'R' word. The whole world is reeling under this turmoil.

This is not going to be a short phase of recession but a very painful one. It might take the whole of 2009 and extend to 2010 before confidence can be restored. China and India would lead the recovery during this troubled period but ultimately US will have to kick off to bring the world trade in order.

The year also witnessed one of the worst terror strike in Mumbai on 26/11. Makes one wonder where is the value system heading to? The year 2008 is better forgotten. The year probably showed us how we should not manage things.

The only redeeming feature of the year would come from the sports and games arena. The Beijing Olympics was a runaway success and showcased to the world the Chinese supremacy. A Phelps or a Bolt created history by achieving what many thought as impossible.

India winning the inaugural world 20-20 cricket and gaining ascendancy in test cricket by beating the Aussies by year end. The IPL 20-20 cricket becoming a huge success which could turn cricket on its head like the "Packer" series.

Viswanathan Anand winning the world chess championship and sharp shooter Abhinav Bindra winning the only gold ever for India in an individual event.It was also Spain's sporting year. Nadal dethroning King Federer from the No.1 spot in tennis and also winning the Olympic gold in the singles. Spain also conquered the Euro 2008 cup and won the Davis cup finals. Yes, sports and games were the only silver lining in an otherwise disastrous year.

Hopefully, the world would have learnt from all the mistakes in 2008 and not allow it to be repeated. That if it happens, would be the only positive fall out from the year gone by.