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Bad hair day

The way the last test match between England and Pakistan was 'disposed of' is a glaring proof of the fact that umpires are being given excessive authority and power. If a player even nods in disapproval to a mistake made by an umpire, he's penalised. But even if the umpire makes a glaring blunder that could as well change the fate of the match, it just 'delays' his promotion. And Darrell Hair is just a product of years of such an unfair system.

And it does not stay down to just mistakes. When Mr. Hair accused the Pakistan team of ball tampering, and penalised them 5 runs, he did so purely from assumption. It was reported that neither of the umpires, or any of the two-dozen TV cameras had had the slightest glimpse of any misconduct. Strange, don't you think? In these days of modern technology, every nook and corner of the ground is being watched from some point or angle. Perhaps, Mr. Hair just had another one of his racist, anti-Asian visions.

Or so it was thought. Even when Arjuna Ranatunga termed this as one more of Hair's anti-Asian abuse, it was not known he might have had more greedy and complicated plans brewing in the pot. And it was all revealed when Malcolm Speed spoke in a press conference that Hair had offered to quit for $500000. And he also suggested that the details would need to be kept secret. Hmm... Now don't you think it all starts to make sense?

The reason that he showed behind this outrageous proposal is that this is the amount of money he would have earned in the next four years of umpiring. And so he would take this as a compensation for his loss. This could be a very good example to the other umpires: You screw up a match rather badly, make some people mad enough to go to court against you, and then get 500000 bucks richer as a compensation for the future years of work (which of course, you are never going to do anyway).

And worse still, the ICC continues to support him even after all this. Speed was quoted as saying: "I am confident, as is David Richardson (the ICC's general manager - cricket), who has been intimately involved in these matters, that Darrell had no dishonest, underhand or malicious intent. He was seeking to find a solution that was in the interests of the game." This is one heck of a solution all right, and very much not in his own interest, certainly. After all, umpires are judges, and judges are supposed to be honest and fair, aren't they?

Like many others, I am also eagerly waiting to see how ICC deals with this debacle. And if this is not enough to end a rather 'controversial' career, we are certain to face more of such 'bad hair days'.
For more info, check out: http://content-usa.cricinfo.com/ci/ content/story/257308.html

By Tausif Salim

Book review
Captain Corelli's Mandolin

So here I was, complaining how I don't have the time or resources to read more than one book a week, when my friend Tausif decided to lend me a well-thumbed copy of Captain Corelli's Mandolin. How that would solve my dilemma, I wondered. Then I read the book.

Okay, at the core, it's basically a book about the Axis occupation of the Greek island of Cephallonia during World War II. By bringing in a love story, personal accounts, descriptions of the battle, and more, however, author Louis De Bernieres actually weaves several concurrent stories together in this amazing novel.

The main focus of this story is this remarkable Greek woman called Pelagia, who loses her fiancé to the war, and by that I mean that the guy Mandras is irrevocably changed by his experiences, and later falls in love with an Italian officer called Captain Corelli. And yes, he plays a mandolin. The stories of the other characters adds dimension to this plot, so that it becomes a rich canvas of the overall situation in that part of the world at that time.

So why this novel solves my one-book is because Bernieres tries so many different things in this one story, that it's like what you would get if you tore out a few chapters from a number of books and then tied them together. Firstly, he follows Wilkie Collins' style of telling the story through different viewpoints. This he achieves by incorporating diary accounts, letters, speeches, and dialogues along with a third-person narrative. When you're reading the war bits, it's like an Alistair Mclean. The star-crossed love scenes are reminiscent of Colleen McCullough's Thorn Birds. The bits about life under the Germans has a Gabriel Garcia Marquez quality. Then there's life after the war, which feels like something by Nicholas Sparks. It's a really amazing book, because there's no one style of writing that you can identify as Bernieres' signature style. So it really is like reading many different books together.

The book's been made into a movie starring Nicholas Cage and the very pretty Penelope Cruz, so put it on your reading list!

Sabrina F Ahmad

Twenty plus one

The tone of the fax machine caught Ivan's attention. The machine was an old one and the noise it created always got on his nerves. But he turned a deaf ear to it and focused all his energy on the katas. His grey eyes were as cold as ice when he went on practicing on the sand bag. After few minutes he stopped, his hands got bruised, but he enjoyed pushing his body until it was almost ready to collapse. Sweat trickled down his square chin and started dripping on the rusty platform, the floor of the terrace. His muscles were all pumped up; gasping for oxygen Ivan prepared himself for Mawashi Giri, an ancient move of karate, the round house kick. Taking two steps back, his fists clenched, he made the move. The impact was massive, tearing the sand bag on one end, scattering the fine particles that glistened in the morning sun. Ivan was not satisfied. He could perform far better than this. As he was thinking these thoughts, he felt an acute pain in his right ankle. Sighing, he thought he must be getting old or something. He moved towards the table and took the message. The final confirmation was in and the balance of the hundred dollar bills was clearly stated. The transfer was complete. It was his turn now to show his loyalty to the client.

Ivan came out of his apartment and started walking along the sidewalk. It was Rio de Janeiro. He held a case of an old six string Spanish guitar, an antique piece of art which not everyone would like to see. He looked at the other pedestrians who were walking towards their own destinations, their usual chores, offices. But Ivan was different. He stood out among the crowd; his job was unique too. People thought it was a wrong choice in life, but to him the smell of the green notes was the only thing that mattered. Life had nothing to offer him. He was always by himself, alone. The front of an old building was coming into view. The architecture was magnificent; that must have been what made him choose it just the other day. The structure was a condemned one and that was the only thing he needed. He went up to the third floor, moved a couple of paces forward and stopped near a window. He opened his guitar case and took out his favourite tools. Fixing the free-floating barrel of the 7.62 mm Springfield M21 sniper he ensured it was perfectly 'match-graded'. He then mounted the telescope on the weapon with his dexterous hands, the fiberglass was in good shape to avoid humidity on the receiver. Unlike others Ivan never looked at his target at the beginning. He only took the description, details about their personality and outfit. That way, he never failed in any of his assassinations. He was not always like this…didn't always like shedding blood. There was a time when he used to be a person with self dignity and respect liked by all; he had everything in life, a perfect wife, a job that he loved a lot. But his whole world had come crashing down when Elana died. Ivan loved his wife, he had only lived for her. He could have saved her from that Mustang that dashed in front of her while she crossed the street. The driver was drunk, and threw the bottle of scotch on the road as he swirled the car onto the sidewalk. She stood motionless, staring at the flashing beams of the headlights holding her belly trying to keep her baby safe from the world. Ivan came out of the store running as fast as he could, but he was late. The killer escaped the scene leaving the mother of his unborn child covered in blood. Ivan could not speak to say goodbye but he saw those watery blue eyes, fixed at him as if cursing him. He could not save his woman.

Life changed after that. What Ivan did or why he did it were always a mystery. He was always headstrong and his finger never trembled a moment when he pulled that trigger. He took the rifle on his chest, viewed through the telescope and focused on the national park of the city. The place was crowded with South Americans, children playing on the swings and carousals and adults busy preparing themselves to listen to Amanova Pavlov. She was a renowned personality, leader of the national defence ministry. Amanova was supposed to give a speech for the citizens of Rio de Janeiro.

'Security must be quite strong' Ivan thought for a moment, but that wouldn't be a major problem once she was on the stage. He looked at his Swiss Army digi-watch. It said quarter to three. There was still fifteen minutes left for Miss Pavlov to appear. The rustling of the tall eucalyptus leaves just adjacent to the building caught Ivan's attention. He never understood the beauty of nature and he knew he probably never will. Emotions seem to have no real value, only a rush of adrenaline with some neurotransmitter secretions sending impulses to the brain and weakening concentration. He was waiting for the perfect moment, a time when he will place his cards one by one, and at last the ace of spades to hit the game. He'd already cleared twenty victims, and each time it was a single shot. He was getting better at it, his eyes never let him down and the shots were all clear, causing instant death. Ivan looked at his watch for the second time…two more minutes to go. He looked through the telescope again. His eyes scanned the stage, and suddenly they stopped on a person who stood in front of the rostrum. There was no doubt that it was Miss Pavlov. The vision was a bit blurry and he made some adjustments for a clear shot. He then looked at her face. A chill ran through Ivan's spine and his fingers went numb. His eyes became fixed, stone cold. His breath was heavy and his palms began to sweat. His mouth was wide open and he was completely bewildered. It was her, that same face, same smile, the eyes which were full of childlike innocence. Amanova was ready for the speech.

“Elana!” Ivan almost whispered as he spoke. He couldn't believe his eyes, Amanova just resembled Elana. Ivan was dumbfounded. How could that be possible? He saw her die. He saw his love pass away. 'There's something wrong! ,' Ivan thought, 'why am I having such illusions?' The shrieking sound of his watch brought Ivan back to reality. It was 3.00 and Ivan knew that the time had arrived. He then placed the silencer in front of the barrel and looked at Amanova, who was looking absolutely gorgeous. Wearing a silky pearl shirt on top of a black business skirt, with her auburn hair blowing with southern breeze of the Monday afternoon, Amanova waved at the crowd as she spoke. She had a ruby around her neck, as red as wine and Ivan wondered how beautiful a person could be. He held the rifle strongly and aimed at the stage. He pointed the weapon at her chest, to save her the pain. But he couldn't shoot. His hand trembled as he held the trigger. He started to feel dizzy and could feel the emptiness in his heart. Was he becoming emotional? He knew what he had to do. Reeling thoughts sped through his mind as he pulled the trigger. There was a faint whistling sound that came out from the silencer. The bullet went home, there was a sudden jerk on Amanova's body and blood gushed out of her chest. Her pink shirt turned all red, and her legs became paralyzed. It seemed as if she was suddenly very old and scuttled along the stage before her body lost all its strength, the muscles got exhausted and she collapsed. Blood oozed out and was still on the red carpet; Amanova took her last breath.

Ivan watched her die and he was on count twenty plus one. He had never in this life watched his victims die, but he stood there for few minutes. The security hurriedly began to evacuate the place as they searched for the assassin. People were screaming at the top of their voices, children were crying, and the whole atmosphere was chaotic. But some five blocks away things were absolutely quite on a five storied building. The sun's rays penetrated the window and fell on Ivan's eyes and they tired. He felt like sleeping. There was no remorse as always. Death had cleared him of all conscience. Lighting a cigar he quietly left the place.

By Yamin Tauseef Jahangir


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