An Incredible Cricket World Cup Final

Truly, the finals of the Men’s Cricket World Cup, 2019 played at the hallowed Lord’s two weeks ago was incredible!! England faced New Zealand and the game was far more thrilling than anyone would have imagined. I am not sure if World Cup finals have ever ended as a tie since the Championship started in 1975. I  rather think not.

New Zealand batted first on winning the toss and scored 241 for 8 in their 50 overs. Not a great score, one thought, but a fighting one considering they had successfully defended an even lower score to beat India in the semi-finals. This had brought India’s dreams of winning the World Cup to a crashing halt.

In reply, England looked set to win quite easily. They needed 15 runs from the last over with two wickets in hand. Ben Stokes was batting like a champion. At a crucial juncture, by a stroke of luck, an umpiring error in the eyes of many by Kumar Dharmasena awarded England more runs than they deserved. Then, to everyone’s amazement, England barely managed to tie the game. Both teams had scored 241. The rules provided for the Super Over.

This is where things got crazy for fans all over the world. While millions watched every ball bowled with bated breath, most unexpectedly  the Super Over too ended in a tie. England scored 15/0 and New Zealand 15/1. Much to the displeasure of many, including me, the match and the championship was awarded to England because they had scored more boundaries than New Zealand in the course of the match!! Yes, this may have been in the rules but this rule needs to be changed!

When better run rate is considered for pushing up a team when more than one team has the same number of points, why should boundaries scored be considered, that too with so much at stake?? New Zealand, you might recall, had qualified to the semi-finals in the first place because they had a better run rate than Pakistan who had the same number of points.

It was an incredible match but left fans perplexed on many counts. I, for one, feel that in the 2019 World Cup finals both the teams should have been declared winners.

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“The Indian Spy” by Mihir Bose

I thought I was reasonably well read about the Second World War but reading “The Indian Spy” by Mihir Bose showed just how ignorant I was! I had never come across any story about an Indian spy as famous/infamous as Bhagat Ram Talwar. I was truly astonished to know that during the War years, Talwar (or Rahmat Khan or Silver as he was often called ) was a spy for not only the British and the Russians but also for the Italians, the Germans, and the Japanese! How remarkable is that!!!

I had of course read about how Rahmat Khan helped Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, acting as a deaf and dumb man, escape from India to Kabul during the early years of the Second World War. Little did I know that Netaji’s guide for this trip was the man who Mihir Bose describes as the ‘Most Remarkable Secret Agent of World War II”.

Talwar was first initiated into spying by the Italians in Kabul, which even then was a hot bed of intrigue and politics. He had initially wanted to work for the Russians as he was a member of the Kirti Kisan Party, a little known Communist party active in those days in the Punjab and the North West Frontier Province of an undivided India. Spying for the Germans then followed as they were the allies  of the Italians in the Second World War. Netaji Bose had by then reached Germany and Talwar became a full time spy shuttling between Kabul, Afghanistan and the Punjab and the North West Frontier of India.

He was soon asked to work for them by the Russians. Talwar’s ties to the Russians was based on his fascination for the Communist ideology. What amazes me is how gullible the Germans or at least his handlers in Kabul were! Talwar cheated them for years without their knowledge. He invariably briefed the Russians soon after his meetings with the Germans, and gave them whatever he got from the Germans!! Ironically, the Germans helped him the most monetarily and he served them the least.

India was ruled by the British in those days and soon Talwar was engaged by the British. Incredible as it might sound, the Russians shared their knowledge about Silver with the British as Russia and Britain were then Allies against the Axis forces. Without knowing about his links with their enemies, each of these countries trusted Talwar. They extracted whatever they could from him, much of which, of course, was misinformation!!

In the later years of the War, the Italians crossed over to join the Allies. By then, the Japanese had joined the Axis and Germany had lost all interest in the Far East and South East Asia. It was inevitable that Talwar became a spy for the Japanese as well.

The author covers in much detail how Talwar transformed himself over the years from being an amateur in the game to becoming a master spy. Equally interesting is the role of Peter Fleming ( brother of spy writer Ian Fleming, the creator of James Bond ) who was his handler for the British in India.

Talwar apparently lived on in post-Independence India right up to the early ’80s. He even took part in a seminar on Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose which was held in Calcutta in 1973!!

All in all, I found this book to be extremely interesting.

My end note: This is not written in this book but left me wondering……….Talwar seems to have lived in the state of Uttar Pradesh where the mysterious Gumnami Baba also lived. Many believe that Gumnami Baba was none other than Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose! Given the personalities of both of them, is it not likely that Netaji and Talwar were in touch with each other in those post- War, post -Independence days? I like to think they were!!

India’s World Cup Dreams Crash

New Zealand’s opening bowler Matt Henry knew exactly what he had to do. He had to bowl according to their plan. India’s opening batsman Lokesh Rahul, unfortunately for India, did not know what to do. India had already lost their best batsmen Rohit Sharma at 4, and captain Virat Kohli at 5. Between deciding whether to step out and drive the ball, go back and defend it or simply leave it alone, Rahul dangled his bat outside his off stump. There was a faint nick which wicket keeper Latham grabbed with glee and India at 5 for the loss of 3 wickets faced almost certain defeat in the first semi-finals of the 2019 Cricket World Cup. Continue reading “India’s World Cup Dreams Crash”