Friday, March 1, 2024

Xi’s optics, Thanksgiving, cricket

Musings by Shekhar Nambiar

China’s Xi Jinping was at his PR best, smiling and looking for photo ops. At San Francisco for theAsia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum (APEC), he had every reason to be at his best behaviour. With a flagging economy, rising unemployment, and a restive population, he certainly has pressures back home.

The visit is also seen as an opportunity to not only reach out to the US and show that all is well with the two, but also to offset his mounting domestic problems, economic and political.These include the public discontent with his policies, especially ousting senior government appointees and sacking of top aides from their portfolios, notable among them being Foreign Minister Qin Gang and Defence Minister Li Shangfu. More recently, in October, the sudden death of Premier Li Keqiang, popular among the people who considered him as one among them, led to outrage with outpourings on social media and expressions of public homage for the departed leader.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s selfie with Li Keglang, the popular former prime minister of China who died suddenly.

In San Francisco, Xi talked about California, the US state’s old links to China and the need for the two powers to walk the path of cooperation rather than that of confrontation and unhealthy competition. Biden and Jinping did the customary walk in the gardens in Woodside, California, and the former referred to Xi having photographed himself before the Golden Gate Bridge during a previous visit.

Also read: Lessons still to learn

All good, but are these enough to remove distrust among the two big powers given so many irritants remain unresolved? The belligerence of China in South China Sea, the run-in with Vietnam, Taiwan and its relations with Japan are issues that elude lasting solutions. In our backyard, its muscle flexing in the Andamans Sea, naval surveillance vessel intrusions, the stance on Arunachal, and the continued forceful occupation of our land in Ladakh defy any solution, at least for now.

Xi, the smiling giant

Slice of Americana

Even as Xi visits the US, America and Americans are getting ready to celebrate Thanksgiving Day on Thursday this week. It’ll be a day of family reunions and get-togethers with friends over elaborate feasts of deliciously cooked turkey on dinner tables. 

The genesis of Thanksgiving goes back to the tradition of saying thanks for all the good things in life that a family is bestowed with. Restaurants and eating places rustle up special home delivered food, including turkey that is kosher and halal certified. It is a secular celebration bereft of any religious connotation.

Thanksgiving in New York

New Yorkers celebrate the day with a grand parade with floats, dancers and balloons featuring famous Disney and other characters that include Snoopy, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and the large Santa’s Sleigh float. The Macy’s parade, as it is known and said to be the world’s biggest, has been hosted by the department store’s employees since 1924. The parade takes a route through the city that culminates at Macy’s on Herald Square.

Also read: Our magnificent men in blue

True to tradition, the Macy’s store on the Broadway side is decorated, welcoming shoppers thronging it through Christmas and beyond. The store’s 12 floors are festooned with balloons, and products and brands for men, women and children. You name the brand and you will find it within the store’s precincts.

The disappointed crowd at Narendra Modi stadium on Sunday when India was defeated by mighty Australia in World Cup final

Enter pundits

The World Cup has ended. But cricket is still in the air as it will in India, which breathes cricket. Conversations linger on.

The hushed silence in the stadium on that fateful day, after the debacle,said it all. The crowds came in expectantly to witness India lift the coveted trophy after a 12-year drought. Sadly, it was not to be.

As an Indian, I naturally wanted to see India win. But then can we ignore the brilliant play and tactics of Pat Cummins’ boys!

Also read: Hard work, tenacity pays

Despite the fantastic win, Australians, in general, down under were not overjoyed or excited. They probably could foretell that their men would pull it off. Some in India say it was their ‘mind game’ that did the trick. Others disagree. But there certainly was a psychological aspect to it. Look at it this way. The Indian side gave up hope all too early. The only silver lining being the three Aussie wickets.

In any game, people in a host country would want to see their team win. It has always been so in India. What has changed is people have been conditioned to believe that we are the best. And win we must at any cost. But, then, it is only natural that in a game there will be the victor and the vanquished. It’s as simple as that.

Debates galore

The pressure of the over 120,000-strong crowd on our team was perhaps a bit too much. Maybe the players were overwhelmed by the Ahmedabad crowd’s expectations from them. For Team India, the successive wins during the World Cup matches proved to be their nemesis. Probably, it gave the team a false sense of complacency. Some say it’s the dry pitch – not in the least helpful to the team batting first – that did them in. And as dusk approached, the dew helped the Aussies, batting second.

BCCI to blame?

Somebody needs to take the blame. The BCCI perhaps? But suffice it to say that in the end, the winners’ approach to the game, superb fielding, and accurate bowling helped them to win.

Why didn’t the selectors think of playing a couple more specialist batters, instead of sticking to just five?

There can be endless debates now. In living room and dinner table conversations, and chats in coffee houses and public forums. Cricket is a unifying force with people from all walks of life – from rickshaw pullers, truckers, factory workers to office goers and university students – all joining in a free-flowing debate. There’s enough food for thought for the pundits to analyse and conclude what went wrong.

Also read: Yeh dil mange more

It is not the first time a side has lost. Look at Manchester United. Their continuous drought in match after match has disappointed legions of fans across the world. Let there be a healthy debate. Look at issues threadbare and address them. There will no doubt be a comeback. Frenzied crowds is one thing, victory quite another!

Remembering commentators

A word or two about the commentators, top on the list our very own Sunil Gavaskar and Ravi Shastri.The commentary standards were impeccable. Mayanti Langer and the two above together contributed to making a match of it, if I may so.Talking of which I also want to remember some top cricket writers and commentators of the past.

This is the time for a peep into the history of Indian cricket commentary. Writers Dicky Ratnagur – also a popular radio commentator – and Raju Bharatan are foremost among those who come to mind. The late KR Wadhwaney’s sports reporting in The Indian Express were something we as young University students, and most Indians of that era, looked forward to.Wadhwaneysaab, as he was affectionately called, wrote prolifically and penned over 30 books on sports.

Pearson Surita, VN Chakrapani, and Bobby Talyarkhan were voices who set the radio on fire. Among the Kolkata lot were Berry Sarbadhikary and Kishore Bhimani, whose perfect diction was the favourite among many.Lala Amarnath’s expert commentary was quite forceful and matter of fact.

Famous commentators with IPL cup

Narottam Puri, a medical doctor, was my favourite during my Uni days, a through professional with sound knowledge of the game. From the Bombay crowd was the perfect voice of Anand Setalvad, crisp and clear, one that came across the box very well. He had great oratorial and delivery skills.

Chakrapani was so wonderful a commentator that he was picked by Radio Australia and he eventually became an Australian citizen.


Coming back to last week’s finals, the crowds ought to have realised that it’s only a game, and there’s bound to be a winner and there will be those who couldn’t make it. To be blatantly parochial is to tarnish the spirit of the gentlemen’s game. After all, this is the land that believes in Atithi Devo Bhava.

Also read: A day out at Kotla

Shekhar Nambiar
Shekhar Nambiar
Shekhar is a communications professional who has spent a good deal of time in international organizations and in the development sector. As he puts it, it's been an "exciting journey" for him, beginning his working life as a journalist, with some of the best editors and professionals, before venturing into public affairs and then forays in the private sector. He believes "every day brings new challenges, achievements and success, and the key is to play a small part in whatever it is that you're doing". He tries to keep pace with new tech, and learn a new word a day, of course, "Gen Z lingo!"


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