South Park Me

Political Grandees and the House of Lords

[ Originally posted 21 October 2013. Last updated 13 January 2016. ]

In the hagiography that greeted Mrs T's death, other politicians of her era emerged out of the woodwork. I was intrigued. How many of these old fogeys were still knocking about? The oldest I was certain of was Tony Benn (88). I also knew
Peter Tapsell, Douglas Hurd, Shirley Williams, Norman Tebbit (all 83), Dennis Skinner, Nigel Lawson (both 81),
Roy Hattersley and Michael Heseltine (80), were still alive. But who else? My findings threw up some interesting names...

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South Park Me

Utopia or dystopia?

Here's a scenario: let's assume Britain votes to remain within the EU, but only by the narrowest of margins. Following the lead of their members, several Brexit Tories cross the floor to UKIP, throwing the government into chaos. A group of moderate Labour MPs frustrated at their inability to oust Jeremy Corbyn as leader, form an alliance with David Cameron, George Osborne and their rump Tories to try and prop up a minority administration. The Orange Book Lib Dems (all three of them?), after much soul-searching and fearing their continued irrelevance also decide to reluctantly join the alliance. At the next general election, the alliance merges into The Centrist Party and competes with UKIP, Labour, SNP, Greens and rump Lib Dems. Imagine that.

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South Park Me

2016 Elections

I voted for Caroline Pidgeon (Lib Dems) and Sadiq Khan (Labour) respectively in the London Mayoral election. In the London Assembly, I voted for Nick da Costa (Lib Dem) in my Enfield and Haringey seat and allocated my List vote to the Greens.

Another year, another #ToryFreeZone at the ballot box. A unique year as we return to the polls next month for the EU referendum. I've yet to make up my mind on that. It all boils down to whether the sovereignty gained is worth the inevitable economic uncertainty in the immediate and medium-term post-plebiscite. As a weak social democrat, one cannot easily dismiss Lord Owen's support for Brexit, nor that of the Green Party's Jenny Jones. They are very reasonable people with whom I don't always agree, but they are of the firm belief that the EU cannot be reformed in its present state and I am inclined to concur.

Unfortunately, the fact Brexit is also supported by the likes of Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson (among other odious creatures) makes it extremely difficult to convince oneself that this is indeed the right choice, made worse by the prospect of accepting a post-Brexit negotiation on their terms rather than the Owens and Joneses of the world, who would have very little say on it.

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Sachin Tendulkar

2016 - The Year of Kohli?

A chronological list of his scores since the year started.

74   - T20   v West Aus
7    - ListA    "
91   - ODI   v Aus
59   - ODI      "
117  - ODI
106  - ODI
8    - ODI
90*  - T20I
59*  - T20I
50   - T20I
7    - T20I  v Bdesh
49   - T20I  v Pak
56*  - T20I  v SL
41*  - T20I  v Bdesh
23   - T20I  v NZ
55*  - T20I  v Pak
24   - T20I  v Bdesh
82*  - T20I  v Aus
89*  - T20I  v WI
75   - T20   v Hyd
79   - T20   v Del
33   - T20   v Mum
80   - T20   v Pun
100* - T20   v Guj

1454 runs @ 90.88 (24 innings, 8 not outs).

The Indians are playing a lot of shorter-format matches in the first half of this year, but they've got 14 Tests scheduled from June to December. Kohli is the only player who averages over 50 in ODIs and T20Is. My biggest hope for him is to become the first to average over 50 in all international formats. He currently averages 44 in Tests and if he can keep up this form and translate it into the longer-format, there's a chance of that happening. It would also help if he didn't burn himself out by the latter stages of the year, especially now that he's the Test captain as well. In 2014-15, Kohli became the first in history to score three hundreds in his first three innings as captain, all of them away in Australia. Later in the year he led India to its first away series win in four years against Sri Lanka, and then thrashed the Saffers 3-nil at home with only inclement weather preventing a probable whitewash. Kohli clearly models his game on the Ponting school of cricket and one trusts that this aggressive approach is exactly the tonic demanded of India in Tests. I'm also trying not to come across as all fangirly about VK but I can't help it. When Tendulkar retired (who btw turned 43 yesterday) there were a few candidates to usurp his mantle as India's best, but only one has slipped effortlessly into his shoes. To be sure, the boy Kohli has a long way to go before he can truly be compared with his idol, but if this year is anything to go by, the future looks promising. Long may the glut continue!

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India Flag

Virat Kohli - master of the chase

TEST
26.95 - 1st match innings (HS: 119)
72.16 - 2nd match innings (169)
25.55 - 3rd match innings (96)
60.81 - 4th match innings (141)

ODI
41.23 - 1st match innings (138)
61.22 - 2nd match innings (183)

T20I
35.22 - 1st match innings (90*) [EDIT: After today's 89*, he now averages 40.16 in 1st match innings.]
91.80 - 2nd match innings (82*)

Those are his averages in each innings of a match. The figures in ODIs and T20Is did not surprise me as much as the 2nd and 4th match innings in Tests. And what a contrast with the figures in 1st and 3rd innings - how similar the averages are for those 2 innings. I'm yet to find a batsman who matches this trend across all three formats in 2nd innings (I compared with Root, Williamson, Smith, Amla and De Villiers). After Kohli's match-winning knock against Pakistan earlier in the tournament I wondered if we would see teams winning the toss and choosing to field against India. Then he went one step further against Australia. Does it seem as far-fetched? Kohli has over 900 runs in ODIs and T20Is this calendar year already.

Another stat to savour on: at exactly the same age (27y 147d), one Sachin Tendulkar also had 25 ODI centuries. However he needed 249 matches @ 42. Kohli's done it in 171 @ 51. Considering the Little Master is widely regarded as (one of) the greatest ODI batsmen, Kohli is well on his way to emulating the chap who inspired him. Which explains the rather fitting homage he paid to paaji (big brother) in the match against Pakistan.

Finally, here are the win percentages for the Test-playing nations in all T20Is so far:

62.67 - India
60.00 - South Africa
58.01 - Pakistan
56.02 - Sri Lanka
53.29 - New Zealand
51.82 - England
51.72 - Australia
51.36 - West Indies
33.33 - Bangladesh
24.50 - Zimbabwe

Given that Steve Smith averages 21.55 in T20Is, perhaps it is not all that surprising Australia have been a lot less successful in the shortest format. And perhaps the rankings don't lie either. Kohli and India top their respective categories. For now...

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South Park Me

The joy of public libraries

We are lucky in the UK to have free access to a government-funded local library network. Despite the swingeing cuts imposed by the coalition in the last parliament that forced the closure of hundreds of branches, they haven't disappeared completely. If you are resident in the UK, you can sign up with any public library in the country*. And perhaps due to the effect of the changes in recent years, several councils in London have partnered together to provide a broader set of resources, particularly online. Indeed, two of my favourite aspects of public library membership in London provides me with unfettered, free online access to The Times newspaper and The Economist archives, in addition to the latest editions of over 330 magazines and journals such as The Economist, The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books, National Geographic, Newsweek, Businessweek and The Week. The great thing is that you can read the magazines on your computer, tablet and smartphone.

(* So long as you turn up once in person to prove your identity and residence, plus pick up your membership card.)

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South Park Me

August company

After 29 league games last season, Leicester City had just 19 points and marked nearly four months at the bottom of the Premier League table. If a new season had started immediately after that and included this season's matches, they would have 66 points from 31 matches. To put it in some perspective, this is a list of EPL teams since 1995/96* with the most points after 31 matches. The team in () was the eventual league champion, when different from the leader after 31 matches:

2014/15 - Chelsea            - 73 pts
2013/14 - Chelsea            - 69 pts (Manchester City)
2012/13 - Manchester United  - 77 pts
2011/12 - Manchester United  - 76 pts (Manchester City)
2010/11 - Manchester United  - 66 pts
2009/10 - Manchester United  - 69 pts (Chelsea)
2008/09 - Manchester United  - 71 pts
2007/08 - Manchester United  - 73 pts
2006/07 - Manchester United  - 78 pts
2005/06 - Chelsea            - 78 pts
2004/05 - Chelsea            - 80 pts
2003/04 - Arsenal            - 77 pts
2002/03 - Arsenal            - 66 pts (Manchester United)
2001/02 - Manchester United  - 64 pts (Arsenal)
2000/01 - Manchester United  - 70 pts
1999/00 - Manchester United  - 70 pts
1998/99 - Manchester United  - 64 pts
1997/98 - Arsenal            - 63 pts
1996/97 - Manchester United  - 63 pts
1995/96 - Manchester United**- 64 pts

* The season when the Premier League reverted to 20 teams and 38 matches.
** Newcastle United also had 64 pts

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South Park Me

Addendum

In my excitement to evaluate Leicester City's potential achievement, I forgot to mention a couple other aspects of this season's Premier League that has equally confounded expectations and added to the merriment. The first is the almost mirror-like collapse by defending champions Chelsea and the other is the welcome return of unpredictable results for practically every match, including the ones involving the usual top teams (though perhaps excluding Aston Villa). Long may it continue!

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South Park Me

"Some think football's a matter of life & death. I can assure them it's much more serious than that"

It's been a wee while since I made an entry about O Joga Bonito, but this season's English Premier League has earned it. I can't remember the last time when we were so far into a season (Gameweek 21 out of 38) and a team like Leicester City were still contending for the title. However unlikely it may still seem, the neutral in me wants them to go all the way. It would certainly surpass any achievement since the Premier League began (1992/93) and possibly eclipse the achievements of both Leeds United in 1991/92 and Aston Villa in 1980/81, because of their existing pedigree in English football. Of course, Blackburn Rovers won the title in 1994/95 under Dalglish, but they also had pedigree and their triumph was aided in no small part by owner Jack Walker's millions - the prescient precursor to the business model's successful replication by Chelsea and then Manchester City. No, we'd have to go back to Brian Clough's Nottingham Forest - a fellow Midlands club - in 1977/78 to find the most recent equivalent accomplishment. Back then, The Reds won the league title immediately following promotion from the old Division Two - an extremely rare achievement in itself - and they remain the only club in Europe to have won more European Cups than league titles (2-to-1). I suppose even if The Foxes don't conquer the summit of English football, they'd take a place in the top four and entry into next season's Champions League. Even that would be an outstandingly incredible achievement. Goodness knows how excruciatingly frustrating it's been as a Liverpool fan aiming to achieve just that in the past half a dozen seasons. As another famous Scot might muse: Football, bloody hell!1

1 Bill Shankly quoted in the subject, Sir Alex Ferguson in the entry.

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