The Telegraph
Sunday , July 8 , 2012
Since 1st March, 1999
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Are Indian women the new ‘men’?

Imagine India leading England 2-1 in a five-match ODI series, with M.S. Dhoni having performed the heroics for his side by scoring 94 not out in the first game at Lord’s and 92 not out in the third encounter at Taunton.

The achievements of “Captain Cool” would be applauded all over India.

Now, substitute Mithali Raj for Dhoni for what’s really been happening.

Was it Kipling who said that “If you can keep your head when all about you/Are losing theirs... you’ll be a Woman my daughter!”

Mithali Raj is the 29-year-old captain of the Indian women’s cricket team, currently touring England and doing what the men conspicuously failed to do last summer. The men repeated their pathetic performance in Australia.

It is usual to refer to the Indian women as “eves” — many feel the women should be called women while the men are dubbed “Adams”, as in “Indian Adams strut their stuff on the catwalk” or “Indian Adams try out new hair gel” and, most frequently, “Indian Adams lose yet again”.

Compared with the taller and strongly built English women, the Indians tend to be more delicate. Mithali showed real character — in her 94 not out, she scored only six boundaries in the 111 balls she faced; in her 92 not out, there were four boundaries in 138 balls. That means she applied great concentration in getting her runs in ones and twos.

England women are a formidable side. But their run of 18 consecutive victories was stopped by Mithali almost on her own. On her day she is probably the best in the world. Yet, it seems the BCCI spoil the men and ignore the women. The latter certainly could do with more support staff.

IPL was good fun to be sure, with several exciting finishes. KKR’s victory also brought real joy to Calcutta. But IPL should not be allowed to disguise the deeper problems in Indian cricket — notably the lack of fast bowlers and the inability of Indian men to cope with the moving ball.

Since the Adams are proving to be a huge disappointment overseas, there is a radical solution worth considering — and that is put Mithali and one or two of the better women players into Dhoni’s side so that they can encourage the men to show a bit more fight. An attractive solution would be to replace MS with Mithali.

Forgotten star

Balbir Singh, a great grandfather of 88, was outside the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden a few days ago, recalling independent India’s first gold in the momentous hockey final in the 1948 London Olympics.

India beat Great Britain 4-0, with Balbir scoring the first two goals.

He was also in the side that took hockey gold in the 1952 and 1956 Olympic games in Helsinki and Melbourne respectively.

The Royal Opera House is holding an exhibition on the history of the Olympic games from 776 BC in ancient Greece to the London 2012 Olympics. It will include the stories of 16 iconic Olympians, including India’s heroic Sikh.

In 2005, Balbir, who lives between his three sons in Vancouver and his daughter in Chandigarh, came to Trafalgar Square, London. He joined a large gathering of Sikh Olympians to provide crucial backing for London’s bid for the 2012 Olympics.

Balbir was told by the then mayor Ken Livingstone’s team: “If London wins, we will invite you as a guest to the Games.”

Balbir is too polite to complain, but his close friend, Dil Bahra, 62, tells me: “London did get the Olympics but the promised invitation to Balbir was forgotten.”

Dil, who retired from the Metropolitan Police after 32 years with the rank of inspector, is a remarkable hockey historian who runs a website for Sikh Olympians and also the recently established the National Hockey Museum.

Dil says: “Balbir will receive tickets to a few matches from the International Hockey Federation but the most famous living hockey player was used and dumped by Livingstone’s officials.”

Lady in red

Parmeshwar Godrej’s bright red dress (of the kind favoured by the Duchess of Cambridge) lit up the recent party hosted by her husband, Adi Godrej, the president of the Confederation of Indian Industry, for 300-400 guests at the sumptuous Whitehall Banqueting Room.

This is the party where the energy minister, Greg Barker, announced that David Cameron had appointed him “minister for India”.

“I feel Greg Barker’s appointment is significant and that it is not just PR,” I was told later by Adi.

Cold calling

On the vexed question of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the retail sector, my sympathies are with Mamata Banerjee and the four other chief ministers who will only allow it in over their dead bodies.

I would not like the small pavement dwellers selling vegetables and fish outside my home in Calcutta crushed in the name of progress.

When I raised the subject at one of the CII panel discussions, I got slapped down by Rakesh Bharti Mittal, vice-chairman and managing director of Bharti Enterprises.

“I would not go by how many chief ministers are opposing or how many chief ministers are actually in line with this policy,” said Mittal, who argues that FDI in retail will benefit the ordinary consumer.

He was backed by Ajay Shriram, vice-president, CII, and chairman and senior managing director, DCM Shriram Consolidated Ltd: “Let each chief minister make a decision on his own, because there are chief ministers who want it, so it is illogical to ban it across India. Open it up and (let) those who want it do it and those who don’t want it, don’t do it. I mean that’s the most practical, logical thing.”

Terror trends

The proscription placed on the Indian Mujahideen by both the Commons and the Lords last week has raised the question: “Why ban a terror group that does not appear to be active in the UK?”

The answer from the Home Office minister James Brokenshire is worth noting: “Proscription makes it a criminal offence for a person to belong to, or invite support for, the proscribed organisation. It is also a criminal offence to arrange a meeting in support of the organisation, or to wear clothing or carry articles in public that could arouse reasonable suspicion that an individual was a member or supporter of the relevant organisation.”

In other words, it is now a criminal offence to raise funds for the Indian Mujahideen in the UK or support it in any way — something that had been a matter of concern to the Indian government.

Tittle tattle

For many decades Indian nationalists have been searching for a definitive desi connection in the Higgs boson “God particle” mystery. And now we may have found it, thanks to a tiny paragraph in the Daily Mail.

“Professor Tejinder Virdee, of Imperial College, London, who helped lead one of the two teams of scientists behind the discovery said, ‘This breaks the way to looking at a new vista in physics. It’s like opening a door — you have got some idea of what might be there, now we have to find out what really is there. It is a very exciting moment.’”