Thursday, November 15, 2007

Obsession with Centuries!

Mr. X scored his 26th century in 112 balls in his 218th match and it was the 11th time he scored it in the second innings of a match. With this he also completed 7000 runs in international matches with an average of 37.83 per innings.

You might wonder what the heck am I writing about! Well, this is how a lot of our cricket analysts end up trying to prove a point about the quality of a cricketer. We Indians especially have a fascination for numbers over a career instead of bothering about the performance on the field on a particular day. Rather than focusing on whether the team won or lost the match and why, we tend to get carried away by these stats and figures. While these stats may give some idea about how good a player is, it really doesn't matter so long as the team wins. I don't think any of us should care for how many runs any of our batsmen scored in the entire World Cup as long their contributions helped the team win matches. Does anyone really need to bother about how many runs any of the Aussie batsmen have scored in recent years! What the heck, they have been winning next to everything.

This obsession with statistics is not just limited to cricket or sports. No matter what it is in life, numbers always play a big role. Don't we view somebody who scored 97/100 in an exam in 9th standard as better than someone who scores 91/100. Isn't a 9 lakhs per annum salary better than an 8 lakhs package? Isn't a 17% growth in earnings better than a 14% growth managed by some other firm? Why is there always a need to differentiate on the basis of numbers? I daresay it is a sort of security we have that we can't be wrong in our judgment because we have quantified stuff. While I agree that there is some logic in having numbers as a measure to keep things in perspective, we definitely have a tendency to go overboard with numbers.

Coming back to cricket, does any of us really care how many runs were scored or wickets taken any of the Indians during the recently concluded T20 world cup? What really matters is that India won the world cup, playing better cricket than most if not all the other teams. What got me started on this topic was the disappointment I sensed in all my friends here about Sachin Tendulkar on a century yet again. While he played a scintillating knock and helped India win a match, what people were more worried about was his habit of getting out in the 90s. As far as I am concerned, I would rather have him play the way he did today and score 90s or 80s or whatever so long as India wins matches rather than Sachin scoring centuries and India losing matches. It is a simple enough point but somehow always seems to enrage all the Sachin devotees!

Having said all this, I would also like to place on record the successful completion of my century today after two years and nine months of blogging! Yes people, this is my 100th post... You see, I am not so different from those analysts after all!! :P

Friday, November 02, 2007

Of Democracy and Capitalism..

Sensex hits 20K. Mukesh Ambani becomes the richest person in thw world. At the ET awards ceremony, all the top honchos in the industry meet and decide that they feel proud to be Indian in the midst of such a crowd. If you were reading only the headlines in business newspapers, one could forgive you for assuming that India today is on the verge of becoming a developed nation.

One interesting observation was made by one of my professors who has returned from the US for a brief period. According to him, in 16 years that he has spent abroad, he has seen nothing change in India. And these are the 16 years India is said to have moved from a socialist economy to a more capitalistic model. Have things really improved? Yes, software engineers passing straight out of engineering college get paid 5 times the salary a normal engineer used to get in those days. Business graduates earn high packages and one looks down upon any post-grad student earning less than a certain salary figure. More number of High Net Worth Individuals seem to be surfacing everyday. The financial markets attract a lot of attention, perhaps even more than the government policies nowadays.

Amidst all this euphoria, I found this article by Arun Maira very insightful of how we may be losing sight of how things should actually be. While firms are all aiming at beating shareholder expectations and attracting new customers, the term "inclusive growth" seems to be a word best left for politicans to handle. It is very useful to note how the growth patterns have been different in various stages of economic development in the US. From an economic standpoint, even in the Indian perspective, has the change in government really made a huge difference? The BJP and the NDA tried to harp on the India Shining mantra and was voted out of power. As things stand today, will the UPA fare any better in any poll? I doubt it even though the economy is still growing quite aggressively. While I have heard many views of how democracy doesn't work in the Indian context and it is a hindrance rather than a positive influence, I sincerely believe that our democratic credentials are a constant reminder to the people in power that they need to either deliver or perish. And we as a country definitely need to work out a way to make the India Growth story more effective than simply blame the politicians for the inequalities.