Friday, May 26, 2017

Paw in the bottle!

12th May 2017 turned out to be a Dark Friday when the world woke up to cyber terror in the form of WannaCry virus. According to media reports it has wreaked havoc by locking up over 300,000 computer systems across over 150 countries around the world. Most affected systems were from UK, USA, Russia, China, Spain and India. 

Five percent of the systems affected worldwide was reportedly from India. However, the government hastily responded with "The impact of WannaCry ransomware attack has been limited to five or six isolated instances so far and there are no reports of any substantial disruption to India’s IT backbone".

It is quite interesting how the enormity of the damage was accidentally stemmed by a young technology expert Marcus Hutchins. While the world was grappling with the cyber terror, Marcus Hutchins accidentally discovered the "Kill Switch" to stop the propagation of the malware. It happened when he was going through the sample of the malware, he discovered an unregistered Domain Name. He quickly bought the domain and registered it. To his surprise the propagation of the malware stopped as soon as he registered the domain (domain was "sink holed").

How exactly did WannaCry wreak havoc on the unsuspecting world? WannaCry is a Trojan virus, a “ransomware” which in effect holds the infected computer hostage and demands that the victim pay a ransom money in order to regain access to the files on his or her computer. WannaCry demanded ransom to be paid within 3 days through Bitcoins, ransom amount would be doubled after 3 days. After 7 days, the affected files would be lost for ever.

So, did any one really fall for the threat? It seems many did fall for it but according to experts, the hackers must have made less than $60,000. One reason, they said, was because many people did not know how to pay the ransom. Bitcoin is a kind of digital currency stored in an online "wallet", transactions not easily traceable to the hackers.

Even if the financial gain may not have been substantial to the hackers, the indirect effect of malware seemed to be much more by way of "Denial of Service" (non availability of the system to the users). Computers that had important data stored online were the most badly affected. Health systems were primary targets. NHS of UK was quite seriously affected. Many critical surgeries and procedures had to be postponed due to non availability of online patient records from the NHS systems.

As for the IT security experts, it was busy times once again. There was a barrage of articles and talks on IT security with list of "Do" and "Don't" from IT security gurus and security evangelists. Common among suggestions were related to Windows Operating System and Anti Virus software: install Anti Virus, patch/upgrade regularly, migrate to latest software version, update Anti Virus everyday, back up data (too late for this, may be for future attacks), train employees on best & safe practices, do not click anything from unknown source (most valuable suggestion in my opinion) and so on.

It has been reported that Cyber Security stocks jumped up after the 'WannaCry' attack and IT sales boomed. Perhaps the spurt in business was because of sudden sales in products and services. Sometimes I wonder, if perhaps a vile conspiracy was going on, driven by financial greed. Whenever such incidents take place, I cannot help wondering, who exactly was to be blamed for such events. Is it the manufacturers of IT products or the "bad guys" (black hat hackers) or we the buyers of the systems! 

We cannot blame the "bad guys" for they do it simply because they are "bad guys". They could be doing it for financial gains or simply because they like the challenge or they get a thrill/kick out of causing damage and mayhem. Some of them claim that they were doing a favor to IT community by exposing software vulnerabilities. Whatever the reason may be, the fact is, very rarely is any of them caught. They will continue to hack systems and continue to thrive in their evil objectives.

WannaCry succeeded in its objective by exploiting a weakness in Windows Operating Systems. Microsoft Corporation has blamed NSA (National Security Agency) for allegedly creating and revealing “EternalBlue”, which is a hacking tool used to exploit the vulnerability in Windows Operating System. The tool was reportedly stolen and leaked to the public by the hacker group Shadow Brokers. The same tool was used by the hackers in WannaCry Trojan. 

I guess, this must be one of those exceptional circumstances when users of legacy systems operating under non-Microsoft platforms must have counted their blessings for staying with legacy systems!

Since the exploitation happened because of vulnerability in Windows Operating System, can Microsoft Corporation be blamed for the disaster of such mammoth proportion? Is it necessary to release software that requires, not dozens or hundreds, but thousands of fixes and patches through out the year? Why cannot more time be spent on the quality of software, on improving testing procedures and quality assurance procedures to reduce the number of fixes and patches? Do they have to go on releasing new versions in quick succession even before the current version stabilizes? 

We may ask any number of such questions without much use because there is nothing called "perfect systems". Software is built by humans and as they say "it is human to err".  Perhaps, when Artificial Intelligence comes of age, we can expect perfect systems but until then we have to live with faulty or not so perfect software.

Manufacturers of IT products cannot keep up with the "bad guys" who are always ten steps ahead. They adopt all sorts of nefarious (some call it intelligent) methods, even brute force to find ways of penetrating into software and plant their viruses. It is an amazing fact of life that humans achieve higher levels of competence and creativity when it comes to carrying out nefarious, illegal, criminal things.

Moreover, the manufacturers of IT products safeguard themselves through disclaimers which redeems them from legal responsibility, doesn't matter about moral responsibility. The bottom line is, technology companies are in business to make money, for profit. So they will primarily focus on growing their businesses.

That leaves us the "buyers of IT products" who are to be blamed for accepting any software by clicking "I Agree" button without even reading the disclaimer notice. Not many of us have the time and patience to read the disclaimers written through extensive legal jargon, written in small almost unreadable fonts. Even if we did take time to read it, what option is left other than to "accept"? Ultimately, we end up blindly clicking anything presented with "I Agree" button. 

This act of clicking "I Agree" button develops into such a habit that most people end up clicking and sharing anything that is posted on their inboxes and social media timeline. Whatever may be the argument, in the end, we the "buyers of IT products" end up paying a heavy price. That, unfortunately, is the sad fact of life.

It seems as if we are all caught up in a strange kind of vicious circle. If there were no threats to our systems, who would buy all that goes into protection of systems (software, hardware, services, frameworks)? 

If 100% fail safe and fault tolerant systems are built (which is highly unlikely), who will pay for upgrades? Then what will happen to technology businesses?  If perfect systems were built, who would want maintenance and other IT services? 

If people are stuck with systems that keep on grinding tirelessly day-in and day-out without any failure, then what excitement was left? What will happen to the thrill and excitement of that new software release, to that release of new model or brand? What motivation would be there for research and development? 

So in essence, we are stuck with the way things are now, the endless game of cat and mouse. And who ultimately pays the price? No prizes for guessing.

We the buyers of IT products are done for, stuck, cornered, doomed. They got us "hook, line, sinker", the day the first version of MS DOS was distributed for free several decades ago. Actually, there is nothing in this world which comes for free. Everything comes with a price tag. If not now, we pay the price some day later, and oh boy how we pay, we pay through our nose. 

I am reminded of a story of how they caught monkeys. According to the story, monkey hunters placed nuts in huge bottles which had very narrow necks. When a curious monkey chances upon the bottle, it grabs the nut but it cannot get its paw out. With the nut in its hand the fist becomes big, so big that it cannot pass through the narrow neck. The "poor gullible monkey" is caught in a hopeless dilemma. It doesn't want to let go of the nut because it wants it so badly. It is stuck with the bottle because it cannot move much because its paw is stuck in the bottle. And that is how the hunters catch the monkey. That just about sums up situation we find ourselves in.

Coming back to WannaCry ransomware, experts have been frantically trying to find the source behind it. Until few days ago, no one seemed to have any idea, though there were few theories. According to Neel Mehta, a security researcher at Google, the virus could have originated from North Korea. He claimed that there was proof of same signature between WannaCry and previous viruses they had used in other attacks. Though there was skepticism initially, experts have started accepting the possibility of such a theory.

While the world was reeling from this cyber terror, some people found the situation to be quite amusing. I was chatting about the ransomware with a work place acquaintance, who sounded as if he was reveling in some kind of euphoria. When I pointed out that obviously the hackers behind the virus didn't make much money out of the cyber attack, all the efforts have gone waste, for nothing. His amused response was "this is only a trial, just wait, the big one is coming soon".

I often wonder what creates such a euphoria in some people! While the whole world was in shock, guys like him are in jubilation which is particularly extreme if the victim happens to be America or Europe.

It takes me back to an incidence that happened many years ago, on 11th September 2001 to be exact. As I was driving home after work, I received a call from another work place acquaintance. As I took the call on the hands-free set, I heard the person having an uncontrollable fit of laughter "ha ha ha ha". I could hear the sound of news on his car radio. After he managed to control his laughter, he asked "have you heard the news?". I had no clue what he was talking about. I said  "what news? what happened?". 

He again went through another ecstatic fit of "ha ha ha ha" and said "Oh man, America is on fire". I couldn't quite grasp what exactly he meant. Was it a figure of speech? Was America really on fire? Then he said, "you listen to the news, you will know better what happened". He ended the call with another ecstatic guffaw "ha ha ha ha". 

By then I had reached home. As I tuned in to international news, I just stood there, totally dumb struck by what I was seeing on the television screen. The twin towers of World Trade Center were on fire, burning out like candles, people were jumping off the roof or through open windows. Thick, dark smoke was billowing from the burning towers, ash was flying all around what was left of the towers. People were running helter-skelter on the streets screaming "oh my God, oh my God". Dozens of firefighters were trying desperately to put out the fire, the firemen covered with ash, looking as if there was snow on their hats and dresses. There were screams of horror, pain and disbelief in the background. The whole thing looked like scenes from one of Bruce Willis movies and yet it was all happening in front of everybody's eyes. 

My mouth went dry and I felt as if someone had punched me in the gut. What I was seeing on the television screen was unbelievable. It was bone numbing horror! How could anyone in their right mind be having a laugh about such a terrible tragedy. It was something unfathomable.

Most funny thing is, these very same guys would run off to USA or UK at the drop of a hat and enjoy the freedom, the excitement and all the good things these countries offered. Even when it came to their children's education, their first preference would be USA or Europe. That is the unbelievable hypocrisy!


Friday, March 31, 2017

You hate it, you love it

The dust has finally settled down after some exciting game of cricket, albeit few ridiculous fracas and uncalled for aggression on and off the field. We can safely declare, cricket is definitely not a gentleman's game.

Yet again the country was in the grip of cricket fever for several weeks. The Indian team created history by winning back the Gavaskar Border Trophy for the 8th time by causing a major upset to the Australian batting lineup in the fourth test. The win was most incredible considering that India was comprehensively beaten in the first test match by 333 runs. It was a real feat for India to come back from that loss and win the trophy with an excellent display of bowling and batting.

As usual there has been torrents of accolades heaped on Virat Kohli and his "boys". It is not easy to explain the way cricket casts a magical spell on every (most) Indian. It is incredible how the nation unabashedly adores these "boys" and puts them on pedestal, treating them like Demigods. After all, it is just a game!

The immense hero worship not withstanding, the way they roll in money is mind boggling. Just a few days ago Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) had doubled the Annual Retainership fee of Grade A players from 1 Crore to 2 Crores. Grade B players to 1 Crore and C grade players to 50 Lakhs. As if that was not enough, the match fee for Test, ODI and T20 are also doubled. It certainly pays to be an Indian Cricketer!

At times it makes you green with envy and anger at the amount of money being doled out just for playing a game. But then, you can't help loving the game. Cricket has that kind of mesmerizing power over us. We have a kind of a love-hate relationship with this game.

There could be some odd (extremely sane) people who may not have fallen victim to this unexplained obsession but overall, the bug has bitten most of 125 crores of Indians. 

Even the judiciary is not far behind. Lack of judges is the most stated reason for long pending cases, pending for 10, 15, 20 years, cases related to brutal rapes, molestation, brutal murders, hit and run cases, land disputes, and so on. But when it comes to cricket or movies, the courts somehow find time for quick deliberations.  

Recently, the Hyderabad High Court found time to pull up Hyderabad Cricket Association (HCA) for spending nearly 76 Lakh rupees for four days of breakfast and lunch during one-off test match played between India and Bangladesh. Makes you wonder, what exactly were they feeding them, pearls for breakfast, diamonds for lunch!!!

Soon the yearly money spinning mega event, IPL10, will start. Some of the "big boys" will be again rolling in crores of more money. It is gain 60 odd days of cricket festival. It will again be a grand display of lucre.

And here is the hot news! On the request of BCCI, a Committee of Administrators has been appointed by Hyderabad High Court, which will oversee the IPL10 matches being played at Hyderabad venues. Such is the power of this game called "Cricket". It has the power to make people, however poor, rich, famous, or powerful they may be, to prostrate before it, to toe it's line. You hate it, you love it!



Who really is minding the store!

Sometimes or the other, we all must have come across stories of people who claim to be gifted with clairvoyance. People who claim to have the power of communicating with souls of dead persons, through seances, through trance or using some other tools (Ouija Board, for example). 

It seems Ministry of External Affairs of India (MEA) is also gifted with the power to communicate with dead persons through Email! Incredible and fantastic as it may sound, it is not exactly true. 

An Indian man had recently died of heart attack in Saudi Arabia. The Vice President of Migrant Rights Council had registered grievance on behalf of the family of the dead person on the Online NRI Grievance Monitoring System of MEA (Madad Portal). In response to the registered grievance, the MEA promptly responded with an email addressed to the "dead person", informing him that a complaint has been registered on his behalf and as requested his mortal remains would be repatriated to India at the earliest! It may sound unbelievable, preposterous, ridiculously hilarious, but it seems, this is true!

Details of the email had come to light because copy of the mail was also marked to the person who registered the grievance (VP of MRC). According to him, this was not the first time such a thing had happened, similar incidences had taken place several times before.

It is not clear if the glitch is because of bad design of the MEA system (Madad Portal) or someone at MEA keeps goofing it up. In all likelihood glitch could have taken place because of either or both the reasons. 

The way IT glitches are taking place in the government organizations, it makes you wonder, who actually is running the government IT Systems! 

Here is another shocking news that highlights the sad state of affairs related to IT systems of a very important government organization. It was recently reported that the portal of the country's anti-graft watchdog Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) had crashed on November 28 and "all data", I repeat, "all data" stored online till that date has been lost. What is more shocking and very hard to believe is, the data was never backed up!

So now, it seems that details of all cases of corruption in public offices are lost for ever. It is reported that National Informatics Centre (NIC) has been trying to retrieve the old data but without much success as of March 16 this year. It is also reported that, the CVC has been sending regret letters to all Right to Information (RTI) requests from citizens.

The whole thing sounds bizarre and outrageous. It is very hard to believe that one of the most important systems of the country for fighting corruption did not have a disaster recovery plan in place! The implication of this is very grave. It implies in very simple words that details of all cases related to corruption in public places is lost for ever. It is as if with a single incidence, all the people involved in graft have been granted reprieve from their crimes. As if someone said "abracadabra" and all signs of cases of corruption had vanished into thin air. 

The CVC data loss incidence raises several important questions. One such question is, was IT audit of the system ever carried out anytime internally or through an independent party? If yes, then how did they not discover absence of data backup which is one of the most basic requirement for business continuity? 

The whole thing sounds quite bizarre! What is more shocking is, there was hardly any discussion on this grave matter neither in the news media nor on social media. Hardly anyone had raised any question if this was really a system failure or human failure or result of some other more sinister stuff going on. 

It seems the shocking incidence of total data loss of CVC got buried deep under the most trending and raging news, Yogi Adityanath becoming Chief Minister of Uttar Predesh. For weeks now, this seems to be the most important topic the country has to deal with. It is very sad that people would rather indulge in muck heaping, trolling and other forms of sensational and vain activities rather than discuss matters of grave importance to the country. 

With such kind of misplaced priorities, is there much hope for the country? God help us if this is the quality of IT systems installed in the government organizations, and of people running them, and weird things that are taking place. We certainly need lot of prayers and good luck!


Wednesday, March 8, 2017

National Shame

This is a national shame! It has been reported that three civic workers suffocated to death inside a manhole while trying to clean up a clogged sewer or faulty drainage system in Bengaluru, India.

I know what happens next. Politicians will try to get political mileage from the tragedy. People of various political affinity will start heaping abuses at each other on the social media. No one will even pause to think that these men and women who cleanup other people's dirt are the lowest paid, ill treated and most ignored lot. That they work under most inhuman of conditions one can imagine.

The country spends  crores of rupees on election campaigns and other undertakings of least importance. But no one even thinks of coming up with better and "humane" methods of drainage system cleaning and maintenance.

The country has progressed in all spheres of development getting international accolades for various technological and other achievements. But we still need a man to swim in our dirt so that our drainage systems flow smoothly. 

We get outraged on matters related to film stars, cricketers, politicians and other silly insignificant issues. But our senses are numb to such social injustices. Very sad!

Economic Opportunism

Every year a plethora of special international events are remembered on designated days (World Health Day, World Water Day, Cancer Talk Week, Earth Day, International Women's Day and many others). Some remember the day through talks, discussions, slogans and messages from important people and not so important people. Some take the opportunity to turn it into a day of joy and celebration. Some take the opportunity to express their outrage through protests, strikes and sociopolitical activism. 

The most active participation is from commercial organizations that see the event as a commercial opportunity. However serious or grave the event may be, they want their piece of the cake, an opportunity for increasing wealth. In this regard, some hospitals are not far behind. An unsolicited message from one hospital reads "Your health is the most important thing to you. On this International Woman's Day, avail special 20% discount on your health check". 

While people are discussing and raising issues related to gender equality, female infanticide, rapes, and many other forms of oppression and neglect, this hospital is keen in getting it's piece of the commercial cake through health sales pitch. Nothing wrong I guess, or is it!

Friday, May 20, 2016

Two more nails in the coffin

It has been a show of woman power at the recent Indian state elections, with Jayalalitha and Mamata Banerjee sweeping the polls.

Many thought that with the court case hanging over her head like a Damocles Sword, Jayalalitha didn’t stand much of a chance. She proved them all wrong, winning with a considerable margin. The exit polls predicted return of DMK but they too were proved wrong yet again. 

The biggest winner in this election is Mamata Banerjee. With the gloom of Sharada Ponzi scam clouds hanging over its head, detractors predicted doom for TMC. They expected return of Left parties with their allies. They could not have been more wrong. She retained power with a massive lead sweeping all opposition aside. After this massive win, some political experts are projecting Mamata Banerjee as a national leader, a PM material. Yeah, why not!

There seems to be some kind of secret pact between LDF and UDF for ruling the state by taking turns. Accordingly, this time it was LDF's turn. In the melee of wins and losses from these two parties, a lone lotus bloomed. One single win against a prediction of 70+. Perhaps, a resounding echo of "Po Mone".

The lone single win was by the 86 years old veteran, O. Rajagopal. With the kind of following he has, he would have anyway won even if he had represented some vague unknown party. Wonder whose great idea it was from BJP think tanks to field Sreesanth as their candidate. Perhaps, they should have sent him to Harbhajan Sing to validate his eligibility.

Victory for BJP in Assam was very much expected. May be "assam chai" ploy got sold after all! Actually, it hardly mattered whether Assam people fell for it or not. After three long terms of Tarun Gogoi, people would have naturally wanted change. It could well be a strategic mistake by Congress Party. Old guard should have made way for a new younger face.

It is a great personal victory for Sarbananda Sonowal, the new CM elect of Assam. However, it is just the beginning of tough times ahead. Incessant natural calamities aside, there are many sticky issues that have been plaguing Assam,  the issue of migrants of Bangladesh origin for one.

Even though the performance of BJP was deplorable in west and south (Tamil Nadu: 0, Puducherry:  0, Kerala: 1, West Bengal: 3), the BJP is wallowing in apparent success and jubilation at Assam triumph. Tumultuous celebrations were witnessed at BJP office with rose petals showered from balconies on PM Modi, Amit Shah and other BJP ministers and party members.  It looked as though victorious warriors were being welcomed from the battlefield. More than the win of Assam,  the loss of two more states by Congress Party could have made them so ecstatic, so euphoric.

It has become quite evident again that displacing regional parties in the states is next to impossible. The only thing that may work is by becoming an ally to get a foothold and understand how the local mechanics work.

Now that “Decision 2016” is settled, could it be time for the “gaadi” to change gear from “election” mode or “Gandhi Bashing” mode into “drive” mode! May be not, for other state elections are just around the corner. More strategy, more speeches, more rhetoric’s, more mudslinging, more character assassinations needed, lots to be planned.

With the Assam win, will BJP come out of the Congress/Gandhi phobia? Perhaps not. Their fear appears to be too deep rooted. It may not be a bad idea to get some counseling to redeem themselves of the fear.

Meanwhile, Subramaniam Swamy is busy with his usual antics. He had turned the Rajya Sabha into his personal Twitter handle, saying anything he fancied, using his stupid acronyms and innuendos, throwing allegations at anyone he fancied. 

This time he is after the RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan. He is either aiming for the RBI Governor post or just doing somebody’s bidding, it is anybody’s guess. The time is not far when he will become an uncontrollable liability. It won’t be a surprise even if his loose cannons are aimed at BJP politicians. History will show, how good he is at changing color like a chameleon.

As for Congress Party, it is two more nails in the coffin. Their situation is like the cricket team facing a do or die match to qualify for play offs. If they do not take corrective, realistic, positive actions now, if they continue with the same complacency as witnessed in the last two years, it is “game over”.


Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Final Countdown May 2016

The day of reckoning is again just round the corner, this time the day to decide who wins and who loses in the political battle for the conquest of the north east, the west and the south

Tomorrow is the day when the results of Indian state elections of Assam, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and Kerala will be revealed.

One can well imagine how busy the God’s will be tomorrow with prayers on the lips and hearts of most of  1.26 billion Indians. I am pretty sure that the God’s must be getting prepared by increasing the bandwidth of communication channels to cope with the heavy incoming data traffic.

It has been reported that different parties have as usual ordered for firecrackers and thousands of kilos of sweets. It will be interesting to see who will burst the crackers and who will take it home for next Diwali.

The guys involved with exit polls are at it again, as usual predicting wins and losses for various parties. They are just doing their duty, just going through motions, for they too know how the predictions went for a toss in the previous Delhi and Bihar elections. Not one so called "expert" got it right. Cannot blame them for it is not easy to fathom the psyche of the Indian electorate. Election after election, they have surprised the pundits and political analysts. 

Our PM was again busy with hectic election campaigning. He told the people of Assam how he used to sell tea, not just any tea, it was “Assam Tea”. Did they believe him, did that inspire them? Well, we will know very soon.

Our PM went to Tamil Nadu and told the people a nonexistent story of “helicopter ka chori”. Perhaps, he thought “Augusta Westland Chopper Scam” was too complicated for the people to understand.

He went to Kerala and raised a storm in a tea cup. His criticism of things in Kerala being much worse than in Somalia didn’t go very well with the people. It created such a storm on social media that some people decided to convey their displeasure on Twitter through hashtag #PoMoneModi which according to Shashi Tharoor translates into “get lost, kid”.

The cricketer turned politician Sreesanth claims BJP will get more than 75 seats. Interesting how BJP put their faith in this guy who to me sounds very immature in his conduct and very irresponsible with his tongue. Perhaps, in the words of journalist Sabin Iqbal, "he has been washed and sanitized in saffron water”. Perhaps, he has a large fan following, perhaps he may even end up garnering votes.

BJP has even managed to rope in big names from film industry, like Suresh Gopi. More than that, we have seen in the past how BJP has had major wins, more because of wrong doings of other parties than its own merit. Who knows, it could happen again, BJP may triumph in these state elections too.

Perhaps, it could be a welcome change for Tamil Nadu and Kerala. It would be a very amusing sight, with lots of Hindi speaking politicians going around, asking “nariyal ka pani lao”.

There was a time when, with the very mention of the word “Hindi”, the people in Tamil Nadu would go on the rampage. But things seem to have changed in the last couple of years. More and more people are drawn towards politicians from the north. The time may be right, they may welcome Hindi language and Hindi speaking politicians. They may even be inspired to learn Hindi and even listen to "Mann ki Baat" to get first hand information rather than reading translations. The same could apply to Kerala.

Will the change happen? Well, it is just a matter of another day, we will know for sure if people have been swayed by rhetoric or they have been smart enough to see things through for what they really are.

Tomorrow is going to be an exciting day, a day of another landmark, another milestone for many Indians. It could even be very interesting for people from Somalia, they may also be watching the results with interest. By that, I mean the people of real Somalia, the real country.



Sunday, April 3, 2016

Who will lift WT20 2016 trophy?

World Twenty20 2016 will be over in a couple of hours after the finals between West Indies and England. As far as millions of Indians are concerned, the tournament was over on Thursday itself at the end of the second semi finals match at Wankhede Stadium. 

Considering the way India played in this tournament, it was quite surprising that they even reached semi finals. Most of the matches were won with very close contest, sometimes due to mistakes of the opposition, sometimes due to some fine performances from one or two individual batsmen and bowlers. But above all, the wins were due to the “Lone Warrior, Virat Kohli” and some power hitting by Dhoni in the death overs. The closely won matches were exciting but not impressive or convincing. The top and middle order batsmen hardly fired or even gave a glimpse of form.

There was a ray of hope when finally the top order batsmen fired in the semi finals. As usual, Virat contributed the highest. Just when I thought this match may turn out to be a team victory, the bowlers decided to give the match away. Which team can afford three lives to a single batsman, that too through no balls! One of the mysteries that I can never comprehend is, how does a spin bowler manage to overstep the line. Simmons literally lived the life of a cat with so many lives. Every time they got him, he was popping right back like a jack in the box.

It was frustrating and painful to watch the Indian bowlers struggling and being hit all over the ground and over the rope at free will. Surprisingly, the usually outspoken Indian commentators were quite circumspect. Perhaps, the mouthful, or rather tweetful, from Big Brother has had effect on them, when he grumbled how the Indian commentators, while quite generous in praising foreign players, were too hard on the Indian boys.

Virat Kohli was the only saving grace for India.  True to his name, he had a grand tournament. All through the tournament, his form was so awesome that, one blogger tweeted “the new Bahubali of India” with a photoshopped picture of Virat carrying the Indian team on his shoulder. Virat was focused, skillful and tactical, especially the way he handled the death overs. Above all, I liked the way he was enjoying the game. His game in the match with Australia was a special treat. Yuvraj Singh too showed some hope, but unfortunate for him, his injury spoiled his game.

Coming back to today’s finals, I wonder how crowded Eden Gardens is going to be tonight considering that people of Kolkata are reeling from the shocking and unfortunate flyover accident. It could turn out to be a low key affair, or maybe not. People must have already bought the tickets for the event. Such is the power of cricket that nothing can deter people from enjoying a game of cricket.

Now, the question, who will be the champion of WT20 2016? 

West Indies team has performed well all through this tournament, they bat deep and they have a good bowling lineup. But so did New Zealand. They had consistently outperformed other teams. But in the end, when it came to the crunch game, they choked. It is not the first time that a team choked in the crunch games. How many times we saw that happen to South Africa!

On the other hand, the English team is on a roll, riding high on their resurgence after the poor performances in the initial round matches. Everyone, the experts and the laymen, all had written them off. One expert even bewailed “what can we expect when a team has young inexperienced players”. Such a sentiment was strengthened further when South Africa put up a huge total of 229 in the group match. At the end of that first innings, most experts thought that it was all over for the English team. But, it was not to be!

The top order batsmen, Roy, Hales, Stokes and Root, came out with all guns blazing, doing a “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” stuff. It was a sudden transformation that nobody expected. I am pretty sure that win of England must have left many mouths wide open in wonder and disbelief. After that innings, the English team never looked back.

So, here is my prediction. English team will take the cup! 

But then again, cricket is such a funny game, you can never say what will happen until the last ball is bowled. May the best team win!


Thursday, March 24, 2016

Dhoni does it, yet again.

Dhoni does it again, pulling a rabbit out of the hat in the WT20 cricket match between India and Bangladesh.

The game, which was surely and steadily inching towards a Bangladesh victory, turned out to be a thriller in the end, a pot boiler. The victory pointer gave nearly 80% chance to Bangladesh. And then, the madness happened. 

Bangladesh was cruising nicely towards the winning post until they started their "hara-kiri" in the last few overs. They could have easily achieved the target with 2's and safe boundaries. But they threw it all away by going for risky shots, showing unnecessary aggression and foolhardiness, losing the match by just 2 runs. Even if they had hung on and scored 1 run, the game could have gone for a super over. Unfortunate for Bangladesh, it was not to be. India won the match, that too after many dropped catches.

Dhoni yet again took a gamble by giving the crucial last over to a maverick. This lad, Hardik Pandya, is a very exciting player, always busy in the field, making his presence felt, either bowling, fielding, batting or taking incredible catches. It was quite amusing to see him, with his ever lingering boyish grin, trying his best to carry out the responsibility given to him. I couldn't help feeling sorry for the quandary he was put in. Even the umpire had to chip in with a pat on his shoulders. 

What an exciting, thrilling and nerve racking last over it turned out to be. Just 11 runs was needed for Bangladesh for a win. But, the over ended up with three wickets and a win for India.

Cricket is a funny game, you cannot be sure of the results until the last ball is bowled. In the end it all comes down to who wilts and buckles under pressure and who holds on with nerves of steel. That is where our man Dhoni comes in. He has proved it time and again. 

In the end, it turned out to be the difference between men versus boys, maturity versus inexperience, keeping cool versus getting carried away by euphoria.

In the event of a win, credit must go to every player in the team but what stays in the mind is the last exciting moments. In all the excitement, people forgot the penultimate over bowled by Bumrah. He was hit all over the park in his previous overs, and then he comes back and gives that peach of an over, conceding just six runs. 

All said and done, Pandya's heroics and Dhoni's calculated risk taking coolness will be remembered and talked over for quite sometime to come.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

What if Trump triumphs!

After Donald Trump’s proposed ban on Muslims from entering the US, he has lost business associates and his businesses, at a rate faster than you could say “TRUMP”. 
In several countries, his business billboards and hoardings have been taken down. His products have been pulled off the market. His controversial statement evoked outrage from many corners of the world. His comments were widely criticized, prompting many people to respond in anger. 

Describing Trump’s speech as “hateful”, Mark Zuckerberg spoke out in open support of Muslims, saying “If you’re a Muslim in this community, as the leader of Facebook I want you to know that you are always welcome here and that we will fight to protect your rights and create a peaceful and safe environment for you.”
Close on his heels, followed Google’s Sundar Pichai vouching his support for Muslims, saying "open-mindedness, tolerance and acceptance of new Americans is one of the country's greatest strengths and most defining characteristics. And that is no coincidence - America, after all, was and is a country of immigrants". 
Surprisingly, response to Sundar Pichai's statement has been quite subdued in India. In fact there were scattered murmurs of criticism and abuse in the cyberspace. As usual, the self appointed tour operators advised him to go to Pakistan. Some were even offering additional options like Syria, Iran, Iraq, and other such places. It is ironical that just a few months ago Indians went gaga over his appointment at Google. It is such a hypocrisy how the Indian psyche has changed in recent times.
Donald Trump’s extremely aggressive stance is making his own party chiefs very uncomfortable and worried. They fear that his hate speeches could have a backlash on their party at the elections. Even with the mounting criticism, Trump vowed never to leave the presidential race.
So, here is my question. Will Trump triumph in the US presidential elections? My feeling is, a section of the Americans may be swayed by his speeches and his revolutionary promises and may even vote for him. But I doubt very much that he would be elected as POTUS. 

From his speeches and statements in the press, Donald Trump comes across to me as arrogant and rash. More than that, his rhetoric of hatred and xenophobia is a serious cause for concern. It rings alarm bells!
On the other hand, if George Bush could win and even get reelected, why not Trump! Many experts even say that Trump is not only a viable candidate, but according to GOP polls  his lead has been increasing by the day. It has been also reported that since his hate speech, donations have been pouring in to his campaign coffers. With this kind of support, it is very likely that he will be one of the front runners.
One of the hot topics trending on the social media and discussion forums is, assuming Trump gets elected, will it work out for good or bad for US and the world in general. If bad, how worse could it get. 

It is possible that things may work out for the better. But in the worst of worst case scenario, here is what I imagine could happen, if he really means all that he is saying he would do if elected: 
Closer to home, the American society may get divided and torn apart in strife like never before. With more lenient gun control laws, the states may start looking like the “wild wild west”.
On the international front, with his continued hateful and xenophobic attitude, he may upset many nations, including some of the allies of US. Many of them could even get alienated. Relationship between the US and Russia may deteriorate to such an extent, that the world may see a "rewind" to the cold war era with many more players taking sides, with much worse implications. There could be many conflicts between a new divided world order, with devastating consequences, leading to global socioeconomic and political crisis. There could even be the possibility of a depression, this time much worse than the Great Depression of the 30’s.
On the brighter side, I don't reckon there would be a third world war. I don’t think anyone would be foolish enough to think that they can nuke a country and not feel the ripple effect of annihilation. No, I don’t think anyone would want to risk such a situation.



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