Diego Maradona, Always The Man of the Match

There are many things Diego Maradona could have done after his stint as the world’s greatest footballer of all time. He could have, like other legends from the world of sport, chosen a dignified, greying life spent in a suit throwing instructions at footballers from the other side of the touchline, he could become a football pundit on TV, or he could have simply posed for photographs while doing humanitarian work across the globe.
But that’s not who Diego Maradona is.
Maradona’s entire life has been a Mountain Dew commercial – full throttle, filled with thrill and adventure. If his life were to be summarised as an inanimate object, it would be a Formula One car. It moves at speed, there’s a lot of thrill, but a permanent risk that things could come crashing down any moment. He is Argentina’s comic star, action hero, and chocolate boy all rolled into one.
When he’s not busy smoking pot, sporting a Che Guevara tattoo, and trying out a funky hairstyle, he’s pissing people off on Twitter with his comments and engaging in a verbal barrage with Pele. A heart attack survivor and drug addict, he lives life to the fullest. A footballing Charlie Sheen, if you will.
When Lionel Messi’s Argentina were sweating it out on the field in a must-win game against Nigeria at the World Cup yesterday, Maradona danced with a Nigerian fan in the stands, posed with a saint-like image of himself, looked up to the heavens every 18 seconds, enacted the Wakanda sign, showed someone the finger, and then had to be carried away to a hospital at the end of the game. While the internet exploded with his antics, Maradona would probably call it, just another Tuesday.
While everyone else saw a football game, Maradona lived his life during those 90 minutes. The ups and downs, the heartbreak and the jubilation mimicked his existence. Cameramen and photographs were probably more in love with him than Messi. With every miss and every foul, the lens panned to the stands for his reaction. Even if you missed the game, you could feel the twists and turns with his changing expressions through the course of the game. The world wide web erupted as the greatest footballer of the current generation scored on the pitch and the greatest footballer of the previous generation cheered for him from the stands, in the manner that only he could.
It’s no wonder that while other celebrities garner respect, Diego Maradona garners only passion. He is as raw, frank, and as real as it gets. In a world that dictates political correctness for public figures in the limelight, he has no time for it. He speaks what he thinks, emotes what he feels, supports what he likes, and consumes what he wishes, not giving a flying fuck about what anyone thinks of him. He’s football’s darling, who people love seeing at the games, while he has the time of his life, every single time.
As the world’s most passionate Argentinian, he is GOAT at everything he commits himself to, both on and off the field. It’s the only way he knows to live life. And last night he showed us that he isn’t just the world’s greatest footballer. He is also the world’s greatest football fan.

LEAKED! Arvind Subramanian’s Resignation Mail

Dear <insert name of Finance Minister here>,
I don’t know who I should address this mail to, because I’m not sure who the Finance Minister currently is. Are we doing the odd-even thing, where it’s Arun Jaitley on odd days and Piyush Goyal on even days? Anyway, I will address it to Arun Jaitley ji because I don’t know of any other way to say it – I am katti with Piyush Goyal.
I would like to tender my resignation from the post of Chief Economic Advisor after serving almost four years in office. The finance ministry seems to be a “sinking ship” – even Rahul Gandhi knows it – and I don’t want to be around when it hits the iceberg. The economy has hit a rough patch, fuel prices are rising, the rupee is getting weaker and the current account deficit is widening. I was among the world’s top 100 thinkers in 2011 – I can’t have a blip on my CV just because you lot can’t get your shit together.
However, the real truth is, I could’ve stayed a few more months as my term was about to expire anyway. But you never know what Donald Trump is up to; give him a few more days and he’ll even deny green cardholders entry into the United States. I would like to go back and continue my teaching assignment so stupid economists don’t end up in the White House, engaging in trade wars with China.
Endings are also a time for reflection, and now is a good time to look back at my memorable, if patchy, tenure. Yes, it would’ve been preferable if the government canteen served beef curry and we weren’t forced to do yoga every morning. On the bright side, it has made me fitter, although I wish I could say the same about the shape of our economy.
Still, we managed to launch an online education platform Swayam that got lost among the thousands of websites and apps that the government launches every other day. It was a shame that we created more websites than jobs over the last four years. My team also conceptualised the JAM trinity: Jan Dhan, Aadhaar, Mobile. Thanks to Venkaiah Naidu ji for that acronymn.
But I don’t think I will get over one of the big disappointments of my term in a hurry: The Economic Survey 2017-18. I was proud of the effort from my team. We put in months of compilation, research, and analysis to publish a beautiful document… and all everyone could talk about was the friggin pink cover. Bunch of penny-wise, pound-foolish noobs. Here’s a tip for my successor – no matter what they do, dear Finance Minister, I hope you’ll ensure that they stick to a generic colour for the Economic Survey cover. Preferably orange.
I also suggested a simplified GST rate, restricting it to a maximum of two-three rates. I’m not saying the present GST structure is complex but along with the restaurant bill, people should also be handed over IIT application forms – because if you can get your head around how GST works, you are probably a genius and can make it to India’s premier institution. My suggestion was obviously ignored, because that’s how advisory roles work. They ask you for advice, pay you for it, and then go on to do whatever the hell they like.
Anyway. New endings, new beginnings. I should be thinking about happy things.
I am excited about going back to my family in the States, and also catching up with Raghuram Rajan and Arvind Panagriya. We’ll do what ex-employees usually do – meet over coffee and bitch about our former employers (except Amit bhai, of course, he has global reach).
I would also like to say thank you to the media that was relatively kind to me but my almost-namesake Subramanian Swamy was relentless. It is amazing how diametrically opposite two people with the same name can be. Rahul Gandhi and Rahul Dravid, Hardik Patel and Hardik Pandya. Narendra, Nirav, and Lalit… ok, maybe not.
Farewell, dear FinMin. I wish my successor the best and I pray for the well-being of my team because my God, you’re going to need it.
Yours Sincerely,
Arvind Subramanian
PS: Jaitley ji, let’s get on call so we can discuss reducing my notice period. Two months is a lot; Modi ji can finish touring six-seven countries in that timeframe.

Does England’s 481 Against Australia Sound the Death Knell for Bowling?

When I played Brian Lara International Cricket on our Pentium 4 PC as a kid, I was an addict who had figured the game out – quite the way Nirav Modi had figured out the loopholes in the banking system. If the computer bowled a good length delivery outside the off stump, I had to move my batsman a bit, press Shift + Right Mouse Button (RMB) and it would go for a six. Every single time. Perhaps it was a game bug but I couldn’t care less as I smashed 250 runs in 20 overs and became the gaming nerd of my society.
To put things in perspective, it was 1999 and these were humble times. A time when good batting line-ups would struggle to chase 250 runs in an ODI game.
As I watched England take Australia to the cleaners at Nottingham yesterday, amassing 481 runs in a 50-over game, I realised that Codemasters, the developers of Brian Lara International Cricket, had actually made a prophecy all those years back. It wasn’t a game bug after all. Every good length ball outside the off stump was quite literally disappearing out of the ground. Only, this time around, it wasn’t a video game. This was real life and the Australian bowlers couldn’t just throw a fit and press “Quit Game”.
In a recent episode of the web show Breakfast With Champions, Afghan sensation Rashid Khan narrated a funny story where he cheekily asked a pitch curator during the IPL to prepare a turning track. The curator told him, “If I make a bowling track, no one will come to watch the game.” The quick-witted Rashid immediately shot back, “If you make a batting track, I won’t be able to come next year.” They both had a good laugh about it but the story captured the popular sentiment quite aptly: Bowlers don’t matter, everyone just wants to see big runs scored.
Cricket is no longer a contest between bat and ball. Remember the old days when tours were promoted as a contest between Imran and Gavaskar, Sachin and Warne, Lara and Murali? Today, cricket is a contest between my batsman and your batsman. It’s a dick-measuring contest. If you can score 350, I can score 351. If you can score 400, I can score 401. It’s Virat Kohli vs Steve Smith vs Joe Root vs Kane Williamson. Bowlers do not exist to create their own legacies, they merely exist as a hindrance to a batsman’s legacy.
The assault on bowling has been institutional and relentless. To paraphrase the poetic brilliance of German Lutheran pastor Martin Niemöller:
First, they changed the fielding restrictions, and I didn’t speak out. Because I wanted to see more runs.
Then, they allowed bigger, better, wider bats and I didn’t speak out. Because I wanted to see more runs.
Then, they invented the T20 format with shorter boundaries, flat tracks and I didn’t speak out. Because I wanted to see more runs.
Then, they started penalising bowlers with free hits and I didn’t speak out. Because I wanted to see more runs.
Then, there were almost 500 runs scored in an ODI with no one left to speak for the bowlers.
The ICC would quite simply argue that it is giving the fans what they want. If people love Race 3, Bollywood will keep making Race-like movies. If people want to see fours and sixes, fuck the bowlers, we’ll give you fours and sixes. It is a beautiful advertisement for the World Cup to be held in England next year. Come to the stadiums, pay for a ticket, we promise a run feast. As for the bowling, we’ll get cement tracks or replace humans with AI machines if we have to.
Even though the ICC believes it’s market demand and it is good for the game, let me try to argue otherwise. I might perhaps be in the minority, but I’m confident I’ll get you on my side as time passes by. You see, flat tracks and run-scoring machines not only harm bowlers, but they also harm batsmen. Remember when scoring a Test hundred used to mean something? Now, it’s merely a statistic. You had to grit it out in the morning session, counter the early moving ball, and negate spine with sturdy technique.
Test hundreds are now like MBAs: Everyone has one and it’s too easy to get, and so it has now ceased to mean anything. Less than a decade back, it was astonishing when a batsman scored 150+ for the first time in an ODI. And then it started happening every other week. A new Taimur Ali Khan picture gets more eyeballs than a 150 in an ODI.
Soon, 200 will be the new normal, or even 250 perhaps. But cricket as a sport is losing its essence as the audience is normalised to more and more runs.
When you think of exciting moments in cricket, you think of Sachin hitting Shoaib for a six over third man and then Shoaib knocking him over with a bouncer. You think of Shane Watson trying to ride it out against Wahab Riaz on a pacey wicket, or Mitchell Johnson and Kevin Pietersen going hard at each other in the Ashes. The reason these battles stick in our memory is because there was an air of unpredictability about them, and that is what sport is about. Both the batsman and bowler had equal opportunity every single ball, and that made it exciting.
Kids of the future will grow up watching batsmanship being glorified disproportionately. Crowds love batsmen, sponsors love them; they will have the likes of Kohli and Root and Williamson as role models to look up to.
But no bowling heroes, with quality dipping with every generation because of the balance being heavily skewed. My generation had Wasim, Waqar, Warne, Murali, Lee, and Walsh and it seems unlikely that the trend will be replicated over the years. Who wants to be a bowler in this environment? Especially, with every other ball sailing over your head for a maximum.
And just like that, the fine and nuanced art of bowling will keep getting eroded, approaching its slow and timely death.
“Beta, batsman ban jao, bahut scope hai,” a coach is telling a seven-year-old somewhere.