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Lifting goods, not morale

Sir — The Winona Ryder shoplifting case would at best make a third-grade whodunnit movie. Witness the latest revelation before her inevitable conviction — Ryder had apparently been asked by her director to “practice” shoplifting to prepare her for an upcoming film. While this was revealed by the security manager of the Fifth Avenue store, Saks, Ryder’s lawyer was busy convincing the media and the public that the video surveillance tape shows the Hollywood star shopping, and not stealing. The very least the client and the lawyer could have done is support the versions of each other. But the absurdity does not end here. Ryder’s lawyer has also charged the store authorities with manhandling her. He claimed that “one of the guys lifts up her...shirt”, while his client could not believe “this was happening to her”. Does one assume here that the actress had no problems of credulity with lifting things from the store' Given that the media in question is American, they can hardly be blamed for missing the howlers and rejoicing over the “greatest” celebrity scandal since O.J. Simpson. But couldn’t they at least have suggested to one of their best-loved stars that she had no chance with a lawyer like that'

Yours faithfully,
Sonia Walia, Chandigarh


Declaration of intent

Sir — Cricket matches these days, be they one-dayers or test matches, are hounded by controversies of all kinds. Heated debates about how matches should have been played, the selection of the teams, the strategies employed and of course, about umpiring decisions, have become part and parcel of the game. The third and last test between India and the West Indies at the Eden Gardens is no exception. Since India had already taken an invincible 2-0 lead in the three-test series, the Eden test had lost most of its edge. Notwithstanding this fact, the reasonably large turnout of spectators had expected a positive outcome of the match.

Needless to say, all their hopes were dashed by the Indian captain, who turned what could have been an exciting match into a damp squib. On the final day, when the Indians had notched up a lead of 200-plus runs, they could have declared the inning and allowed the West Indians to take the bat. A declaration at that stage would have breathed some life into an otherwise dead match. Granted, this may have turned out to be a risk, but what is a cricket match without a little bit of risk' The gesture would have amounted to challenging the West Indians to muster up that many runs in the remaining overs and take the match away from India’s grasp. At any rate, it would have provided a change from the over-cautious, slow game that the Indian players treated the public to that afternoon. With the exception of a very brief spell when Harbhajan Singh came in to bat, the match developed into a half-hearted, desultory batting practice, perhaps in preparation for the one-day matches ahead.

Yours faithfully,
Kamalini Mazumder, Calcutta


Sir — It is a pity that the incredible fight of V.V.S. Laxman on the last day of the Eden test match was not adequately praised or even talked about. It was not any less important than the innings played by Sachin Tendulkar, which was overwhelmingly acclaimed (“Eden challenge spurred Sachin to champion act”, “Sachin denied us victory”, Nov 4). With due respect to Tendulkar and his wide bat, it must be admitted that without the services of the young Hyderabadi right-hander, India would have had plenty of reasons to worry. When Tendulkar was sent back to the pavilion, India were 301 for 5 at 98.2 overs. If Laxman had failed to stay on at the stumps along with the tail-enders, the Indian innings could well have ended at about 350 runs within 108 overs. This would have given the West Indians the opportunity to score around 200 runs within 65 overs (including all the mandatory overs) to win the match. Who can say that the West Indians would not have capitalized on that advantage' And this is exactly why the 531-minute long innings of Laxman was invaluable. He should have been declared the joint man of the match along with Tendulkar.

Yours faithfully,
Abhijit Mitra, Kharagpur


Sir — Poor umpiring decisions have come close to ruining the charm of cricket. Not only can a bad umpiring decision influence the outcome of a game, but it can also ruin a player’s career. The recently concluded test series between India and the West Indies saw repeated unfair leg-before-wicket decisions against key Indian batsmen like Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid. In both innings of the Calcutta test, Ganguly and Dravid were given lbw, while the television replays showed that they were clearly not out. Since these came at crucial junctures in the Indian innings, the possibility of their effect on the result of the test cannot be ruled out. Of course the umpires officiating in a test match are under a lot of pressure, more so because they have to take the all-important decisions unaided by advanced technology, while the television-watching audience gets a blow-by-blow slow-motion analysis of decision moments after it is given. But what could be wrong in using technology more frequently and meaningfully to minimize umpiring errors' Perhaps the decision of the International Cricket Council to select an “elite eight” panel of umpires is not a good one, since it makes an umpire’s job even more difficult. It would be unwise to take away the umpire’s right to make a final decision, but provisions should be kept to change a decision if it is certainly a wrong one.

Yours faithfully,
Anagh Pal, Calcutta


Sir — Sourav Ganguly has done India proud in the past and continues to do so. Closing in on Mohammed Azharuddin’s record of maximum wins for India, Ganguly is destined to surpass him. His calculations on the field in terms of rotating his bowlers and changing his field placements show that he has confidence in his boys.

Whatever the “experts” say, Ganguly is the best captain India has ever had. His leadership quality reminds one of the former Pakistani captain, Imran Khan, who made Pakistan a team to reckon with in world cricket. The Board of Control for Cricket in India should give Ganguly a free hand in selecting players and making changes, because that way, both he and the team will perform well.

Yours faithfully,
Sumant Poddar, Calcutta


Travel allowance

Sir — The report, “Buddha stirred VC takes metro to work” (Oct 4), had a few serious factual errors. One, it referred to Bharati Mukherjee, the current vice-chancellor of Rabindra Bharati University, as the first lady vice-chancellor in the state, whereas Rama Chaudhury became the first vice-chancellor of a state-run university when she took over from Hiranmoy Banerjee in the Seventies. Two, the total budget of the university with regard to the vehicle for the vice-chancellor is about Rs 3 lakh per annum, and not Rs 6 lakh as reported. Three, the executive council of the university had approved of the facility of a pool-car system of the university officers, including the registrar, the finance officer, the deputy registrar of exams (there is no post of controller although the report mentions it), security officer (there is no chief security officer, also mentioned in the report), public relations officer (no facility was given to the PRO exclusively), university engineer, assistant registrars, assistant librarian, secretary of the faculty councils and other officers.

Yours faithfully,
Sisir Majumdar, president, Rabindra Bharati University officers’ association, Calcutta


Sir — It is no doubt an exemplary gesture on the part of the vice-chancellor of the Rabindra Bharati University to respond to the West Bengal government’s cost-cutting drive by giving up the car allotted to her and travelling by public transport. But how long will this enthusiasm last' There are a number of ministers who use more than one government vehicle and live a lavish life at the cost of the state exchequer. Will they be able to get used to a life without these perks so easily'

If the RBU alone can save Rs 6 lakh per month, then the government surely can save at least Rs 6 crore a month and Rs 72 crore a year by putting an end to the misuse of government cars. It will be good nonetheless if more and more government employees followed the example of people like the chief minister and Mukherjee.

Yours faithfully,
Diptimoy Ghosh, Calcutta


Parting shot

Sir — The report, “Buddha freezes salary arrears” (Oct 24), informs the readers that the chief minister of West Bengal, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, “will consider cases of individual employees in need of money immediately, for treatment of some serious illness or for a daughter’s marriage.”

I fail to understand why a daughter’s marriage has to be differentiated from a son’s marriage in today’s social context. Such differentiations only re-inforce age-old gender stereotypes, and imply that fathers of daughters will spend more on their daughters’ weddings in terms of dowry and gifts.

Yours faithfully,
Pinaki Gupta, Calcutta


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