Democracy is the worst form of government one can imagine. Until one tries to imagine a better one. Winston Churchill

Potholes, filth, corruption, flooded roads…any party would have lost the BMC election. ShivSena-BJP shockingly came back to power 2 days ago.  Past 2 months has been a tumultuous time for the concept of democracy. Be it Trump in USA or happenings in Tamil Nadu, tone & tenor the election campaigns in North India, people have are really wondering is this what democracy means? Elected (or even un-elected ones like Sasikala) representatives behave with impunity, blurring the lines between tyrants, dictators and those who were ‘chosen’ to rule. Democracy is truly crazy!

Democracy as an idea is very simple. Though all human beings are born equal, we are like sheep who need a shepherd to keep the flock together. Best among us is chosen to lead us, guide us to ensure we live life in an equal and constructive way. The need for a democratic system can be likened to a concept in economics called ‘tragedy of commons’.

As per tragedy of commons theory every individual pursues his own interest independent of the others in the system, eventually leading to disaster of the entire system. For example, all of us have a right to drive on the road as we choose, as we are independent beings. In absence of road rules, everyone goes his way and eventually nothing moves defeating the very purpose of driving on the road. We need to create rules and regulations to ensure traffic flows in a particular way so that all will benefit though it may not suit few. Question is, who creates these rules?

Democracy in the form we know now took its birth in ancient 5th century Greece, opposing the concept of aristocracy and replacing it with rule by the people.  In Classical Athens, democracy had a flawed beginning – there was aristocracy in democracy. Only free men were eligible for democratic citizenship, slaves and women being excluded. The first true democratic government was established in Finland in 1906. Today only 3 countries declare themselves ‘not’ to be a democracy – Saudi Arabia, Vatican City and Brunei. Rest all (yes all!) have elected governments. It is entirely another matter that in some countries only one person stands for election and gets 99% of the vote! How I wish to meet the 1%.

Success of democracy funnily is not in the hands of the people but in the hands of the one who has the power. Unchecked power in the hands of the leader reduces democracy into a Kakistocracy (a form of government in which the worst people are in power). Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe is an example of running Kakistocratic government. Reason people are aghast with Trump administration is that they believe he has staffed, (including himself) with all the wrong people. So democracy boils to selection of the right leader. That raises the question, who is the right leader?

Greek philosopher Plato put forth a solution – philosopher king. He believed that we need men of highest knowledge to be the kings (rulers) as he believed that knowledge is what is required to rule and not power. The ‘kallipolis’ or the beautiful city (country) is a just city where philosophers rule through knowledge and not through power. In his masterpiece Republic, he outlines the way to groom such philosopher kings and build  a just city.

However, it is not so simple for two reasons. A philosopher after gaining all the knowledge may not be interested in trappings of power and politics. Two, power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Philosopher king comes with all the ideals but gets attracted to power and may end up looking like any other politician or a tyrant, that too an intelligent one. Example, Manmohan Singh. Here was an economics philosopher who got attracted to trappings of power (even if remote controlled), looked other way to the corruption around him and did not give it up all and walk away even at the age of 78.

Nevertheless, democracy is the only choice we have to avoid ‘tragedy of commons’. Exercising the choice (of leaders, parties, to vote) is a power every individual possess. Otherwise, democracy as philosopher Nietzsche said will remain ‘a mania to count noses’.



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Where are the bowlers?

A gun is no more dangerous than a cricket bat in the hands of a madman – Prince Philip

Which of these is the toughest job? Traffic police officer on the streets of Delhi, speaker of Indian parliament or bowler in a one-day international. Silly, the answer is too obvious.

“There might be some movement for the first 4 overs. That too because 2 balls are used which effectively means that the movement can be expected only for 2 overs with each ball”. Sanjay Manjrekar’s words at the start of India’s innings (the second one) during the last one day international between India & England sounded like death knell to one of the finest arts in the world of sport – bowling!

Watching cricket these days is akin to watching a boxer practicing with a punching bag. Bowlers in cricket today, be it test, one-day or T20, exist only one purpose – to enable batsmen bang the ball into the stands. Rare it is to watch to a batsman flummoxed with an exceptional ball from a bowler. Swing, bouncer, turn etc. may be words that are on the way out from cricket’s lexicon.

Look at the list of 10 players of the day. Kohli, Root, Williamson, Warner, Smith, de Villiers, Amla, Cook, Ashwin, Starc. Only two bowlers! Expand the list to Top 20 and you may end up with one or two more bowlers at the best. Look up the list of top 10 players during 2000-2005. At least five of the top ten players will be bowlers. Such has been the fall of the stature of bowlers.

Take a nostalgic look at the time when Kapil, Botham, Hadlee, Imran, Garner, Marshall, Roberts, Holding, Kumble, Murali, McGrath et al were playing. Whenever they stepped up to bowl, you expected something to happen. While facing them fans of the batsmen were either pitying the plight of the batsmen or admiring their skills in negotiating their skills of batsman ship. When was the last time you felt that way while watching any match these days?

Let’s look at some things that changed the game and made it into ‘modern cricket’. Ball, bat or protective gear, everything has improved a lot – all in favour of the batsmen. Pitches have lost all their bite. Perth or Kingston Jamaica pitches were batsmen’s nightmare. No longer. Every pitch report of every match is the same. “Flat, even bounce and outside chance of turn,” every commentator can say for every match to be played for the next 3 months! Next are the rules. Every rule is being re-written to make it a batsmen’s game all the way up to the tail. Imran, Walsh, Akram etc. were well known to wipe out the tail. Today, the tail plays as good as the mainline batsmen.

Technology has removed any degree of uncertainty that made the game of cricket what it is. Unpredictability and human error played their own part in swinging the games fortunes. DRS, third-umpire, Snick meter, Hotspot have virtually nullified any stroke of chance a bowler to snare a wicket. Again this technology is in favour of the batsmen. Last but not the least, the boundary line. As a first step in making a realistic comparison between batsmen of this era and of yesteryears is to reduce their runs scored by 10%. Most of today’s sixers (except may be a few by Chris Gayle) were either caught out on boundary line or would have earned four runs few decades ago. Let’s not forget that a six demotivates a bowler more than anything else. Again another anti-bowler step.

Only one thing is working in favour of the bowler, sometimes. Nature. Swing due to cold and heavy weather. Rest is stacked up against the bowlers. A run feast sells more than a wicket feast. Gross commercialization meant playing to the stands (literally!) than playing in the true spirit of the game. One spell from an unknown commodity can bamboozle batsman like what Chhal’s did to the Englishmen.

What is the hope? We can try few things. One, stick to one ball rule in one-day internationals -scoring against an older ball is part of the charm of the game of cricket. Two, uncover the pitches, so that nature plays its part. Three, pull back the ropes of the boundary and let the batsmen earn their runs.

If not, who needs bowlers? Few bowling machines can do the job. When machines are replacing many human jobs, why not that of a bowler?




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