Sunday, January 28, 2007

india killed the video star

A while ago, Omar put up this post arguing that the ban on Indian movies in Pakistan will inhibit the Pakistani film industry from improving itself. He said that the lack of competition would allow the Pakistani industry to become complacent and settle for mediocrity.

Dog considers himself a die-hard 'liberal', so when he did this, I had to explain to him that it was, in fact, a fiscally conservative argument. A liberal would have wanted to protect the Pakistani film industry until it became good enough to compete in the global marketplace.

In general, my stand on this has veered tentatively on the side of protectionism. But that's not what this post is about. After all, loyal readers will know that tentativeness doesn't form the basis of too many posts here on billu.net.

What I would like to do, however, is draw some comparisons to television. A similar ban was placed some 3-4 years ago on Indian TV stations. Prior to this ban, there were only 2-3 Pakistani channels worth mentioning, and the only real attempt to go global was by broadcasting PTV to the UK and US and calling it “PTV World.” Other than that, the status quo had existed unchanged for a good 10-12 years. Meanwhile, Indian television was pouring into every middle-class Pakistani home.

Since the ban, no less than 62 privately-owned stations have emerged in Pakistan, with plans for another 9 by the end of the year. Coincidence? I think not.

There are, in fact, two reasons for this boom. The first is that the government has become a lot more tolerant of free speech than it once was. The second is that the prominence of Indian TV stations had made Pakistanis accustomed to cable television as a source of entertainment. Once these stations were removed, a concerted effort was made to replace them with local alternatives.

So protectionism, in a sense, led to the current media boom in Pakistan. But not exactly. It was not the banning of Indian stations per se that caused the change. Instead, it was the application of the ban after having grown used to the high quality product that generally accompanies global competition.

So the question is, could the same idea work for the Pakistani film industry? Possibly, but there are two very important differences. First, film and television are two very different products. A movie in the theater needs to capture the viewer's attention for a sustained period of time. Thus, Pakistani films would have to be of a very high caliber in order to compete with Bollywood's high budget extravaganzas. Television, on the other hand, succeeds in part because it is consumed in bulk. Because there are so many stations, it is possible to keep oneself entertained by switching between them. The quality of each station need not be particularly high, as long as it is mildly entertaining for short periods of time.

Second, despite the ban on Indian movies, there is a strong, and quite open, black market that deals in them. This makes it possible for the banned product to make it to Pakistani homes anyway, and neutralizes whatever protectionist effect the ban may have had.

In other words, the black market has made it so that the market is essentially already open. So, just like television a few years ago, Pakistan has grown accustomed to Indian movies as a source of entertainment. Point being, if the black market is shut down, then the dearth of quality films will force the Pakistani film industry to offer an alternative. Movies may be harder to make than TV shows, but if the growing professionalism of the media in Pakistan is any indicator, there should be no dearth of high quality, creative, and talented individuals to fill the void.

Of course, nobody is likely to take any sort of initiative on moving any of this forward. That’s the kind of thing that only happens in movies.

Friday, January 26, 2007

the splinter of our discontent

In this post, Teeth Maestro refutes my (and to some extent, Omar's) argument that Shoaib Akhtar should play on the Pakistan team based on performance and not personality. His point is that Shoaib’s unruliness and disregard for authority splinters the Pakistan team, generating a lack of discipline and unity.

As usual, I have something to say about this.

First, I agree that a side needs to be, as Mr. Maestro puts it, a “coherent organization”. But one rogue character does not an incoherent organization make. There are far worse things for our team’s collective coherence than Shoaib. Nasim Ashraf is one of these things. His shady dealings with Waqar and the doping scandal, for example, must surely have divided opinion among the players, and can hardly be considered good for team spirit or morale. Why blame Shoaib for the team's lack of discipline as a unit, when the management's divisiveness is so painfully blatant?

Mr. Maestro also argues that Inzi and Woolmer should have all the power to administer the team. I agree, but implicit in his statement is an assumption that without Shoaib’s antics, they would have this power. This is na├»ve. It is a well-known fact that the PCB clings firmly to the reigns of power in Pakistan cricket. Removing Shoaib is not going to change that.

On another note, perhaps there is another side to the Shoaib story that we are not seeing. Why is Shoaib so frustrated as to be perpetually fighting with Woolmer? It seems nobody is sparing a thought for the way the management may have been treating him. Sure, he is aggressive by nature, but at least some of his actions must be provoked. Quiet provocation by Woolmer and/or the PCB may be less obvious to the naked eye, but isn’t it possible there may be something in it that is going unnoticed?

Shoaib is our best bowler, and every effort should be made to accommodate him in every game we play. Does nobody find it at all surprising that this is not happening? That he is, in fact, being discouraged from playing, through a combination of childish he-said-she-saids? These shady reports about how he is "also carrying a knee injury" and is therefore "not guaranteed" to play in the World Cup are suspicious and need to be investigated, instead of just saying: "Well, he was an arrogant prick anyway, so good riddance."

The PCB exists to protect the players’ interests, not undermine them, and certainly not to conduct personal feuds with them. When the latter starts to happen, it is time for us to demand an explanation. We should support our players, rather than the crooks that run their careers into the ground.

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cross-posted at cricket.bloggers.pk

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

canning kaneria

Don't get me wrong. I like Danish Kaneria. I saw him on a plane once, showing a picture of a hot woman in a magazine to Kamran Akmal. I found it amusing. He seems friendly. And he has an innocent look about him, like he's not hiding anything.

Unfortunately, that's the problem. What he's actually like as a person I can only guess, but it's quite clear that as a bowler, he's not hiding anything. He has no tricks up his sleeve. Or up anything, for that matter.

When he first came on the scene, there was talk of a new prodigy - a new Abdul Qadir, even. He took plenty of wickets against South Africa, Sri Lanka, India, and Australia. But a closer look at these figures suggests something might have been wrong. Here's a sample: 2/100, 4/117, 7/118, 2/130, 5/125, 7/188, 6/150, 3/136, 3/123, and 5/127.

Clearly, that's a lot of wickets. But it's also a lot of runs. Those 44 wickets came in a small number of tests, but at an average of 30. His career average is 33. Not counting Bangladesh, it's 36.

So his average isn't great. Fine. Problem is, it's getting progressively worse. Since the start of 2006, it's an appalling 39.

I'm not the biggest fan of using numbers to judge a man's performance, but there's a story here. The fact is, he has become more playable. And it's not that he's getting worse as a bowler, or playing on unconducive pitches. It's just that people are getting used to his bowling.

Kaneria is, essentially, a one-trick pony. He can turn the ball a fair amount, and he will work hard, bowling at the same spot all day if Inzi wants him to. But that's about it. Playing Kaneria is like riding a bike: once you know how to do it, you know how to do it. And only in the event that you make a mistake will you get out.

His googly is so ill-disguised that even lower order batsmen are able to read it with a fair degree of regularity. And he has no flipper to speak of. He doesn't vary his flight too much, and only vaguely varies his line.

These are times in which every team has a number of analysts trying to pick up the opposition's strengths and weaknesses. Predictability is not a virtue. Kaneria needs to jazz up his game.

And if he doesn't, then the management needs to look into replacing him. I'm sorry Danish, but that's far too many innings of 45 overs 3 for 150. The times they are a'changin'. Change with them.

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cross-posted at cricket.bloggers.pk

arrogance shmarrogance

I am sick of people saying:

"Shoaib Akhtar is arrogant and therefore should not play."

It is idiotic. Since when did humility become a prerequisite for playing cricket, or any sport for that matter? These players are supposed to be professionals. This is their job. If Shoaib is arrogant, don't go to dinner with him, or invite him over to play with your kids. But surely you can work with him. God knows we've all worked with a few arrogant idiots from time to time.

I am not a fan of Shoaib's antics. But his 'arrogance' does tend to make him an exciting player to watch. He is a celebrity and a superstar, and every now and then he should be allowed to act like one. The way his career has been manhandled says less about him and more about the disastrous state of man management in the PCB (and in Pakistan in general, for that matter).

It is a pity that the PCB has not learned to deal with Shoaib the way the Australians managed to deal with Warne. The Aussies did so well, in fact, that a man who has been found guilty of both match-fixing and doping is still hailed as a hero around the world. There are other circumstances at play here of course (the Australian media is a tad more influential than the Pakistani media, for example) but even so, Shoaib is lucky if he gets respect from his own countrymates.

So what if he's arrogant? He's the best bowler we have (sorry Asif, but it's true). Unless I'm missing something, the team that goes out to represent Pakistan should consist of its best players, not its most humble. Otherwise we may as well just send out a bunch of 11 beard-toting, God-fearing mullahs and see how they do.

Oh, wait... we already did...


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cross-posted at cricket.bloggers.pk

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

eleven is too many

Pakistan needn't worry about silly things like having an 11 man team.

When we started the series I was ecstatic that four specialist bowlers were playing, instead of the Razzaq/Afridi/Malik types that Woolmer seems to love from so deep within the most sensitive parts of his cock. Alas, my joy was unjustified after all. It appears that even if we had sported a team of 11 bowlers, only two of them (Kaneria and Asif) would have bowled. Asif may be our best option for taking wickets, but after his having bowled 40 overs in an innings even I'd fancy my chances of lasting a couple of his overs. At this rate, he may suffer a heart attack before the end of the series. Let's just hope that Nandrolone doesn't wear off anytime soon.

This is bad not only for Asif, but also for the other bowlers. Sure, in the second match it was justified, given Shoaib's "injury," (more on this later) but the way he was overbowled in the first test was retarded. Pakistan started the innings needing to bowl out South Africa for under 199, on a 5th day track that wasn't unplayable but not exactly flat either. The 60.5 overs that ensued were distributed as follows: Kaneria - 24.5, Asif - 14, Hafeez - 12, Rana - 7, Nazir - 3.

Why did Rana and Nazir even play? Just to fill up spaces in the team? What is this going to do to their egos? "You guys are good, but, er, right now we need wickets, so hang back and let Asif the maestro handle it."

About batsmen. Why have so many? It's not as if they score any runs. Seems to me the (two) bowlers do a pretty decent job of getting runs. In fact, if they were to replace Yousuf, Younis, Inzi, and all the tail-enders with a bunch of Imran Farhats, I doubt our team would make it past 100 anywhere but in Pakistan. So why bother with all of them? Play the only 3 batsmen that matter.

What about wicketkeepers? Who needs one? If Akmal's performance is any guide, it doesn't really matter if we have someone back there at all. We could do with a little wall the size of Akmal just fixed behind the stumps, just to stop things from going to the boundary. Catches are overrated anyway.

So 3 batsmen, 2 bowlers. Then they should pick 6 random people from among the spectators to come and play. Who knows, they might score 8 runs each, and that's 48 bonus runs that all the Yasir Hameeds in the world couldn't get you. They say Pakistan is unpredictable anyway. Why try and dispel the stereotype?



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cross-posted at cricket.bloggers.pk