Monday, July 1, 2013

Demystifying Dhoni

I saw a a disccussion on NDTV recently where exerts were debating Dhoni's success and whether Dhoni is the best captain India has ever had. I am big admirer of Dhoni and in my opinion he truly is an extraordinarily intelligent cricketer. In this blog I discuss some of his tactics and the reasons as to why he does so. 

The job of a captain is two fold. Outside the field he has to ensure a good team dynamics, healthy dressing room atmosphere, enthuse confidence in his players while also ensuring that a healthy churning process goes on so that new and fresh talents keep replacing the old slackened ones. On the field he has to take strategic decisions such as about bowling changes, batting order, field positions, pace at which the entire innings should be built or a target chased. While I feel that Ganguly was very good at the first job (Dhoni is too), as a strategist I have never seen a better player than Dhoni.

His most important tactic is delaying the 'end' whether it be a chasing a target or setting up one.  Its something unique about him and I have never seen it before. To have the guts to take almost every chase to the last over takes something. So why does he do so?

One might think that leaving the chase to the very end is a risky strategy. But in my opinion it is done prominently to avoid risk. Dhoni comes to bat generally after it 3 or 4 down which means there are not many specialist batsmen left after him. There are two parts of getting runs, knocking around singles and doubles and second is hitting the risky boundaries. Slogging is easy and even tail-enders can do it. The difficult part is rotating the strike for a long time and it is the job of the specialist batmen to hang around and do so. If the specialist batsmen coming at 6-7 get out early, its match over. Think about it this way. A team needs 100 runs to chase in 15 overs with five wickets in hand. One way too do it is to keep the run rate high from the very beginning so that in the end you have 30-40 odd runs to chase in last 5 overs. Other strategy is to take less risk, keep wickets in hand have around 50 runs to chase in last 5. In the first strategy, if one looses wickets, it becomes more difficult. In the second one, even if the set batsmen get out in the last 5 overs, the tailenders can continue slogging as only a few runs are left to score and win the match. I have seen India loose so many matches using the first strategy in the pre-Dhoni era.

The second benefit is that taking the match to the end puts the opposition bowler under pressure and makes him commit errors. Its so easy to solve a problem while you are practising it but solving the same in an exam becomes much more difficult because of pressure. When a bowler in bowling in death overs (say 5 overs left with 50 to get), he feels the pressure as well because the decisive moments are near. A yorker going wrong becomes much more probable because he knows that if he does not get it right the set batsmen in front of him will take him for runs. This tension forces the mistake and makes getting those 50 runs even easier.  

Another unique thing about him is that he does not talk much to his bowlers if they commit a mistake, no frowns, no showing frustration, no words. Every bowler knows that he should not give width or bowl down the leg side, and so does Dhoni. It is a no brainer. So if a bowler gives width, its because he is not able to put the ball in the right position and not because he does not know where to put it. A captain talking to the bowler and asking him to try and put the ball in the right place will not help. Rather it will only put more pressure on the bowler. Its simply better not to talk to him and let him try and rectify his mistake on his own. Its only when one needs to make a strategic change in bowling tactics that a captain needs to communicate with the bowler. 

His calmness gives a sense of reassurance to his own players and a scare to his oppositions. And in spite of his bizarre looking tactics, most often than not he gets it just right.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

I Wish!!

Voices have a lot of power, especially in a democracy. I realised it while watching the movie 'No One Kiled Jessica'. One of the facts which was not shown in the movie is that there were hardly any changes in the evidences when the case was reopened and the convict was put to trial again. Still the verdict went against the convict. The case in not regarded as one of the victories of judiciary or the system in general but can surely be regarded as a victory of the masses, their voices and their union.

The question then is that why are we not able to bring more changes with this power and are limited to the few cases like the one mentioned above. Or rather why do we rarely see the voices being raised for the right reasons? On one hand we have issues and demands like Gurjar reservation or separate state of Telangana, which create such raucous as to disturb the life of common people. There are leaders and organizations backing these issues which can mobilize masses in no time and the next thing we see are public services getting disrupted. And on the other hand we see huge scams and scandals passing before public's eye without any more attention than a NDTV's 'Big Fight' could muster. Why can't a political party create a raucous against corruption?

I feel that what we are lacking are institutions or leaders who can mobilize the masses for these causes. It's not that people don't care but their anger and desire to do something does not go beyond the dining table conversations. What we lack is a process which could bring everyone together, a focal point where everyone could converge. We need leaders like J.P whose one voice inspired students to so much as quit their studies, their careers and join the struggle for a constructive change. Or may be an inspiring teacher walking through the corridors of Delhi University, someone who possesses the charisma to bring all the students together and start a revolution. I am sure if all the students of Delhi University would come out on the roads of Delhi and demand that we don't want a reservation or that something should be done about the suicides of farmers of Marathwada and Telangana, the government would be forced to take notice. What we need are leaders and visionaries who could channelize and shape the force of public voices and anger. It makes me sad to realize that I live in an age so perfect and conducive for a change but lacks that one Gandhi, or Martin Luther or Rousseau. Instead of an age where, cynicism pervades fungus life, where selflessness has been forgotten, where honesty and idealism are laughed at, and the worst of all, where we don't find any hope of bringing about drastic changes; I wish, I had lived in an age which carried the same fervour and dynamism as the French or the Russian revolution.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Joy of Running

Jodha, Maroo, Vikas and Pratul, four of my friends ran the Mumbai Marathon today. Jodha, Madoo and Vikas ran the half marathon (21.0975 Kms) and Pratul, the full marathon (42.195 Kms). It was a joyous and fulfilling experience for all of them. Each had there own tale to tell. I felt that it was almost like the journey of life with ups and down on the way (literally), faltering and recovering, running, slowing and then pacing again. One thing you realize is that we can stretch ourselves; and stretch ourselves beyond imagination (if you don’t believe that… just say… ‘Forty two point one nine five kilometers’ and pause for two seconds… you will realize). All we need is a goal, a little nourishment (which in this case came from oranges, bananas and perk) and encouragement (which came from the viewers). The most fundamental thing is the goal and a will to achieve it. Kudos to the four!!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Economics For Life

“I'd like to share a revelation that I've had during my time here. It came to me when I tried to classify your species and I realized that you're not actually mammals. Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with the surrounding environment but you humans do not. You move to an area and you multiply and multiply until every natural resource is consumed and the only way you can survive is to spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. Do you know what it is? A virus. Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet. You're a plague and we are the cure.” - Agent Smith, The Matrix.

It has been nearly two years since the Lehman Brothers collapse, an incident which put an end to all confusions and announced a full blown recession. After an initial bail out which all agreed was the right strategy to prevent a catastrophe, we are now at a juncture where we need to decide our medium and long term strategies. Not surprisingly though, we see economists (including the venerated ones such as Joseph E. Stiglitz (nobel prize winner) and Raghuram Rajan differing in opinion. Some like Paul Krugman and Stiglitz are in favour of a more socialistic approach advocating that the government should keep intervening and keep pushing capital into the market where as the others, the free market economists, feel that the minor signs of improvement are good enough to suggest a recovery and it is the right time for the U.S. government to pull itself out and let market forces do their job. What I was wondering is that in spite of all the tools at hand; in spite of all the genius mathematicians and economists, all the supercomputers and the modelling and analytical techniques; in spite of it being 234 years since the first work of modern economics, The Wealth of Nations, was written by the Scottish economist Adam Smith; we are unsure.

I was talking to friend of mine named Hemant Jodha, who had worked with HSBC for almost a year. He used to work on models to predict the market and forecast the macroscopic economic scenario. He explained to me that any model involves assumptions which seem “reasonably accurate” at certain points of time. It is important to note that the exceptional cases (tail risk) are almost always ignored while making those assumptions. So even after you have done all the regression and made projections, there is an itchy feeling because you know that the predictions are only too subjective. That is the reason why, hardly anyone was able to predict this meltdown till it was knocking at the door and any cautions were conveniently overlooked.

On a broad level, we have two major economic approaches- socialist approach and capitalist (or free market) approach. Fifty years ago, socialism was considered a remarkable theory and had champions like Nehru backing it. It was based on idealism. After the collapse of the Berlin Wall, the utopian model was discarded. We had proved to ourselves that we humans are basically selfish and cannot work efficiently until we have a fear of getting dismissed or we see significant additional economic rewards for our actions. Idealism does not work. Capitalism, which is based on the assumption, that individuals and organizations work with profit as the primary goal in mind has failed us today. Greed can be good, but too much of it has left the economic giants in a self-assessing mode. I would like to bring up another economic model suggested by the famous social scientist none other than Mahatma Gandhi. He had suggested that India should adopt a bottom up strategy with each village in India acting as a self sufficient unit. He was against the use of much technology, for he believed that technology brought nothing but alienation to people and made them greedy. He wanted to build an economic system based on simplicity and love; an economic system where nobody would be left hungry but nobody would be rich either. He obviously thought with his heart and the theory sounds a bit too unpractical, but never the less it is a beautiful idea for our minds to fiddle with.

Can we ever come up with a perfect economic model? The answer to that one is no. But we can say that we would be hovering around capitalism, with government taking requisite measures to check outrageous strategies. But where to draw the line? Also what is the assurance that people will not find new ways to circumvent the check points put in by the government?

There is another angle which I would like to bring in here. Say we go for a full blown capitalism and growth, the way India and China are trying to do. Do we have enough resources to sustain a luxurious living for such huge populations? Can our reckless living styles be supported by the limited sources of earth? We all see what the developed nations have done to our world resources. USA has just 4% of world population and uses nearly 30% of world resources. How can we hope to become developed, which practically means come to same levels of per capita consumption. We cannot even think of coming close. The earth is burning out too fast. There are predictions that oil will be over in 4 to 5 decades; that major rivers of India will be exhausted in 3-4 decades. As I hear economic theories to sustain development, I hardly hear any theories which will help us go beyond the known world resources. We are pinning our hopes on a magical breakthrough, which will fulfil our requirements of energy and other resources. We need to pause and think where we are heading. I am sure the per capita resource consumption, per capita green house gases produced etc would be less during these periods of recession. Sometimes I feel that recession is nothing but nature’s way of asking us to slowdown, or a way of buying itself more time to balance things, or a way of just taking a breather.

Capitalism is a way suggested by the brain. People work hard, earn well and enjoy. That is how the brain suggests we behave. But will it be sustainable? There is enough for everybody’s need, but not enough for everyone’s greed. As much as I hate to admit that we won’t or perhaps can’t change, I feel that a feasible sustainable economic solution will require us to show significant behavioural modifications. The solution lies somewhere in between the economic theories suggested above, where not just the brain but the heart plays a significant role as well- a solution which uses technology, provides freedom but simultaneously also propagates simplicity, sensibility and sensitivity.


Its surprising (or perhaps its not)that IPL auctions capture headlines of all major dailies on two consecutive days. Hardly anyone knows that the year 2009 saw 17,368 farm suicides, the highest in past 6 years. Even God must have a sense of humour.

To those who might care, they can read Sainath's article at-

Thursday, September 30, 2010


Self sacrifice can be an addiction. There are causes and feelings so overwhelming, so overpowering that one could easily give one’s life for it; just give oneself away while still rejoicing the fact that your are attached to something so elemental, so fundamental, so pure. It can only be described as a madness resulting from a heartburn, pining for something. A rush of adrenaline, an aching desire that drives one nuts.

A simple example could be our revolutionary freedom fighters, the likes of Bhagat Singh, Azad, Bismil etc. An outsider will only consider them insane or a maniac. Only a mania can inspire an action like bombing and then standing there to surrender just to get the message through. Only unadulterated passion can inspire a poetry like that of Bismil. If you will listen the song carefully Sarfaroshi ki tamanna, you will realize that it just does something to you. A similar feeling would have led to the ballads of Curt Cobain and other musicians. People just go crazy for music. People like Curt even die for it.

After running out of money with which Anurag Kashyap had come to Mumbai to do something in films, he spent eight months on the streets, staying in lofts, sleeping on beaches and even under a water tank and in the St Xavier's boys hostel. He came from a good family. What inspired such careless, reckless living? It was nothing but the same fever, same longing that cuts through all physical pain, material discomforts. And you enjoy that longing, that feverish attachment, that amalgamation; you have fun; you are at peace with your passion. Socials workers like Aruna Roy who have given their all (she draws a salary of Rs. 100 a day from the organization called MKSS, which she herself had established) fall in a similar league. They are people riding there own theme, undeterred.

Once you find a passion and get a taste of it, you don’t care anymore. You are above physical and material desires. You want to just dissolve yourself, melt away, submerge yourself in that intoxication. Even a distant whiff can start dragging you towards that insanity, that inebriated state where everything else is forgotten. You don’t care about anything else. Such passion leads to genius, to creativity.

I have myself experienced such force, such pulls that if you let go will drag you into blissful self destruction. But its not so easy to break the bonds. Rationality of everyday life come into play. But may be one day I will.

I will end with a quote from the Joker in The Dark Knight - “Madness as you know is like gravity, all you need is a little push.”

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Kyaa karen,
ke dil hamara tumpe aa gaya.
Aisi bhi kya berukhi,
Naummeed the to kya jikr bhee na karte.