Tuesday, September 25, 2007

India - Underdogs to World Cup Champions – In a Fortnight, But How?

India beat Pakistan by 5 runs in a cliff hanger to win the inaugural Twenty20 World Cup. It was a dream final involving India and Pakistan and a dream run for India ending in wining the finals. But how could they achieve this feet after bowing out in the first round in the 50 over World Cup in West Indies?

When India lost in the first round in the World Cup I had written in my blog “Why India deserve to lose”. In that post I pointed out 2 factors that pull Indian cricket backward – one was the excess commercialization of cricket and other was the few players getting selected to the team not based on the present form but just on the basis of past performance. Now India has won the world cup and this post reflects the changes that happened since the World Cup in West Indies.

Coming to the first point – when Indian players left for West Indies, for the world cup, lot of business establishments in India used that as an opportunity to popularize their product. They did that by rousing the feeling of nationalism in the mind of common man. These advertisers made them believe that Indian team is going to come back with World Cup. What was the effect of this commercialization? The players were under tremendous pressure even before they landed in West Indies. The result of this pressure we all know – India lost in the first round of the tournament itself.

Now the team for the Twenty20 was not under any pressure when they landed in South Africa for the World Cup. The team flew directly from England almost unnoticed. This time thanks to India’s early exit from World Cup in West Indies, people lost interest in cricket and commercial establishments didn’t try to raise the passion of common man and thus the pressure on Indian cricket players. Indian players were able to perform without the burden of extra pressure from back home and they return with the World Cup. Now with all this success the commercialization is going to come in full force, back to square one. Hope it doesn’t happen.

Now coming to the second point – the few players getting selected based on the past performance rather than the current form and few being immune from being dropped from the team. Think about this – could India have lifted the Twenty20 World Cup had Tendulkar, Ganguly and Dravid were there in the team? If they haven’t made themselves unavailable BCCI should have surely selected them. If Tendulkar, Dravid and Ganguly were there definitely players like Rohit Sharma, Gambhir and Utappa might not have played in this World Cup.

When Rohit Sharma came to bat against South Africa, Indian score read 33/3. He played sensibly and scored 50* in 40 balls – a game changing innings in the context of the match. He followed it up with a superb fielding to run out the hard hitting Kemp that tilted the game in favor of India. Can you remember of an innings of Tendulkar in the “recent” past when he single handedly rescued India out of trouble. If Tendulkar was selected ahead of Rohit Sharma could we have won the match against South Africa?

I was arguing in my previous post that in the World Cup winning Australian team of 2007 there were only 5 players that played the 2003 World Cup while India had 9 players in the 2007 World Cup team (in WI) that played 2003 World Cup. Now see the Twenty20 World Cup – India had only 6 players that played the 2007 World Cup, WI –Sehwag, Utappa, Dhoni, Harbhajhan, Yuvraj and Agarkar. Among the 6 players Agarkar played just 1 match. Yuvraj and Sehwag didn’t play all the matches. The entire Indian bowling attack was new except Harbajhan Singh. The batting line up was also new with Yuvraj and Dhoni sharing more responsibility in the middle order. When the players were selected on the basis of form and not on the basis of past performance see the difference in performance!

Bottom line – this young team have won a World Cup for us and this victory is behind us. Players like Rohit Sharma who performed magnificently should be selected to the Indian team to play against Australia and Pakistan. If he fails to perform consistently he should be shown the door and a new player has to be taken in. Remember the Australian policy – even if you are the highest run getter (read Allan Border) or the most successful captain (Steve Waugh) you are out of the team if you are not performing – as simple as that.

Where does India go from here? Are we going to see over commercialization again? Are we going to see players selected based on past performance than the present form? Hope these two things won’t happen for the good of Indian cricket.

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Thursday, September 13, 2007

What Next Now Kerala Government?

The Malayala Manorama newspaper in collaboration with the Indian Institute of Science Environmental Centre has published a report on the water quality of Kerala yesterday. The major finding of the study was
Coliform bacteria were found in 93% of river samples, 96% of well samples and 99% of tap water samples.
Am I surprised at these results? Not even a bit of surprise when I read these findings, why? Having studied and worked in this area for 6 years now I was expecting such a result. In Save Kerala Blog I had written about a year ago, “Think Before You Drink” about the possible contamination of drinking water in Kerala.

So what is this Coliform Bacteria? What is its source? How is it harmful? What is the permissible limit in water?

Coliform bacteria are not health hazard as such. They are a good indicator of microbial pollution in water. The Coliform count increases in water when water comes in contact with human and animal fecal waste. The World Health Organization (WHO) and US Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) have set a maximum contaminant level of 0% for the presence of fecal coliforms in water. More the presence of Coliform bacteria, more the likelihood of presence of deadly microorganisms like Cryptospordium and Giardia Camblia in the drinking water. If we drink/swim in water with these microorganisms the potential health effects – diarrhea, vomiting, cramps etc. Now you know why so many people died/infected during the last rainy season. You don’t have to go beyond this report to understand why many infant kids died in a Trivandrum hospital few months ago.

One of the possible solutions suggested by some to solve this issue is to add more chlorine to water. But it may cause more harm than good. The presence of coliforms suggests that water is not properly treated. If the dissolved organic carbon present in these waters is high and we add more chlorine to water it may produce carcinogenic compounds called disinfection by-products. The most viable short term solution is boiling the drinking water.

I am very much interested in finding out what Kerala Government does next. This is the government that banned Coke/Pepsi from Kerala based on an unscientific result published by an NGO. The experts have argued that if the same NGO sampled the water samples in and around the country that common people are using they could have found more deadly impurities. Now a study by a reputed institution in India has found that 99% of the tap water supplied by Kerala Government is polluted or has bacteria level greater than one mandated by WHO. Now there is a good chance that since the findings are against the state government they will question the intention of Malayala Manorama or other people involved rather than trying to solve the real issue at hand. Based on this study, if a foreign government advises its citizens visiting Kerala, not to drink water provided by Kerala government they cannot be blamed. It makes more sense than the senseless act of Kerala government in banning coke/pepsi based on unscientific study.

Now what are the possible solutions to solve this issue? First the Kerala government as well as people should understand that because of over exploitation of Mother Nature almost all our natural sources of water are polluted. Drinking water from tap, river or well is not safe to drink any more. It needs to be properly treated before drinking. The next important thing they should understand is that everywhere water is unique and needs different treatment techniques. The water qualities of River Kalpathi in Palakkad will be different from water qualities of River Karamana in Trivandrum and they have to be treated using different water treatment techniques than the conventional treatment techniques we employ.

One of the feasible solutions for treating these Coliform contaminations is using ozone and UV radiation (again depending on water quality parameters). But the cost associated with this is very high and these technologies are high power consuming. The other immediate step we need to take is to “treat” the aging water distribution system. Most of the pipe lines in our state were installed decades ago and they have undergone just patch work.

Now the hard part of it – developing new treatment facilities, putting new distribution system requires a lot of money. It is beyond the capacity of the state government to provide the money for it. It is where I believe the private sector has a major role to play if allowed by the private sector allergic Kerala government.

If we don’t take steps in a war footing this issue is going to worsen and affect each and every one living in Kerala. I wish all Malayalis will keep there politics aside and stand united in solving this issue. Solving this issue can be the best gift one can give to their future generation.

Kerala Government - BETTER LATE THAN NEVER!
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