Friday, 31 October 2014

Why are Asians under represented in English cricket?

by Girish Menon

A recent ECB survey found that 30 % of the grass root level cricket players were of Asian origin while it reduces dramatically to 6.2 % at the level of first class county cricketers. Why?

When this question was asked to Moeen Ali, he opined among other things, "I also feel we lose heart too quickly. A lot of people think it is easy to be a professional cricketer, but it is difficult. There is a lot of sacrifice and dedication," While some may view Ali's views as suffering from the Stockholm syndrome, in my personal opinion it resembles the 'Lazy Japanese and Thieving Germans' metaphor highlighted by the economist Ha Joon Chang. Hence, Ali's views should not be confused with what in my perspective are some of the actual reasons why there is a dearth of Asian faces in county cricket.

The Cambridge economist Ha Joon Chang has acquired a global reputation as a myth buster and is a must read for all those who wish to contradict the dogmatic neoliberal consensus. Chapter 9 of Ha Joon Chang's old classic Bad Samaritans actually discusses this metaphor in detail. He quotes Beatrice Webb in 1911 describing the Japanese as having 'objectionable notions of leisure and a quite intolerable personal independence'. She was even more scathing about the Koreans: '12 millions of dirty, degraded, sullen, lazy and religionless savages who slouch about in dirty white garments...'  The Germans were typically described by the British as a 'dull and heavy people'. 'Indolence' was a word that was frequently associated with the Germanic nature.

But now that the economies of Japan, Korea and Germany have become world leaders such denigration of their peoples has disappeared. If Moeen Ali's logic was right then Pakistanis, Sri Lankans and Indians living in their own countries should also not amount to much in world cricket. But the evidence is to the contrary. So the right question to ask would be why has English cricket not tapped into the great love for cricket among its citizens from the Indian subcontinent?

If it wants the truth, English cricket should examine the issue raised by the Macpherson report on 'institutional racism in the police' and ask if this is true in county cricket as well. Immigrants, as the statistics suggest, from the subcontinent can be found in large numbers in grassroots cricket from the time they joined the British labour force. There are many immigrants only cricket leagues in the UK, e.g in Bradford, where players of good talent can be found. But, as Jass Bhamra's father mentioned in the film Bend it Like Beckham they have not been allowed access to the system. Why, Yorkshire waited till the 1990s to select an Asian player for the first time.

----Also read

Failing the Tebbit test - Difficulties in supporting the England cricket team


Of course, if the England team is intended to be made up of players of true English stock only then we need not have this discussion. Some of the revulsion towards Kevin Pietersen among some of the establishment could be better understood using this lens. However, now due to its dwindling base if the ECB  wishes to get the support of Asian cricket lovers it will have to transform the way the game is run.

Secondly, to make it up the ranks in English cricket it is essential to have an expensive well connected coach. Junior county selections are based on this network and any unorthodox talent would be weeded out at the earliest level either because of not having a private coach or because the technique is rendered untenable as it blots the copybook. So, many children of Asian origin from weaker economic backgrounds are weeded out by this network.

This is akin to the methods adopted by parents in the shires where grammar schools exist. Hiring expensive tutors for their wards is the middle class way of crowding out genuinely academic oriented students from weaker economic backgrounds. Better off Asians are equally culpable in distorting the grammar school system and its objectives.

So what could be done. I think positive discrimination is the answer. We only need to look at South African cricket to see what results it can bring. My suggestion would be that every team should have two places reserved: one for a minority player and another for an unorthodox player. This should to some extent break up the parent-coach orthodoxy and breath some fresh air and dynamism into English cricket.

Personally, I have advised my son that he should play cricket only for pleasure and not to aspire for serious professional cricket because of the opacity in the selection mechanism which means an uncertain economic future. He is 16, a genuine leg spinner with little coaching but with good control on flight and turn. Often he complains about conservative captains and coaches who were unwilling to gamble away a few runs in the hope of getting wickets. Many years ago, when my son was not picked by a county side, I asked the coach the reason and he said because, 'he flights the ball and is slower through the air'. With what conviction then could I have told my lad that you can make a decent living out of cricket if you persevere enough?

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Today, males under 40 are three times more likely to kill themselves than women

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown: We must wake up to the silent suffering afflicting too many young men

We were discussing terrorism at a private seminar two weeks ago when one of the attendees – an academic – wondered aloud whether jihadis had found their own way of expressing grave and growing male despair: “They go off to kill others, while here in the UK an unprecedented number of men under the age of 40 are killing themselves. Do both these come from the same source?” The question stunned us all. It was bold, astute, lateral and exposed the inadequacy of the national discourse on terrorism.
Muhammad Mehdi Hassan, only 19, was killed in Syria this week. Like three other young men who have also died in those killing fields, he was from Portsmouth. Many such Muslims appear to have gone out to help Syrian people caught in the bloodiest of civil wars. Then some got in with Isis, while others took up arms to fight the bad guys, whoever they are. A number British Muslims want to come back home, but can’t because Isis makes them stay on pain of death. And, besides, they know they would be imprisoned upon return.
In most cases, the families are shocked and traumatised. Imagine how Hassan’s mother feels. They sent him to a private school hoping he would make them proud. Now they have to mourn, feel guilt and be accused by those around them. They have no help groups and worse, are seen as pariahs.
Meanwhile a reader, Lucinda (not her real name), emailed me last week. She is alarmed at the way her leftie, liberal friends are now vehemently anti-Muslim and think that such parents are liars or should know what their children are up to. Parents of young white men who commit suicide are similarly disbelieved or blamed. The guilt, the silent accusations, circulate around them: “How could they not have seen the signs? Why didn’t they do something to help him?”
Female suicides have gone down since 1981, while male suicides are up. Today, males under 40 are three times more likely to kill themselves than women in the same age group. Suicide is the biggest cause of death among men under 35. Though most are from the lower socio-economic groups, over the past decade sons of politicians, judges, and other professionals have killed themselves.
Janet Cosgrove, who now volunteers with Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide, still can’t believe her son William stabbed himself to death 11 years ago. They had shared a takeaway, watched TV the night before. His note said: “I just don’t want to be here any more.”
That must be how many of the other men felt when they could not go on – when they didn’t want to wake up to another day. And that, I suggest, could be one factor pushing jihadis, too. Brian Jenkins, a counter-terrorism analyst at the American Rand Corporation’s National Defence Research Institute, believes many of those young, impressionable men could be mentally ill, or are individuals “facing personal crises and having trouble coping”.
We must condemn what they do, but at the same time find out what is going on in their impenetrable minds. A retired, respected expert from the intelligence services told me on Thursday at a YouGov conference in Cambridge that jihadis who wanted to come back should be allowed to do so – and then helped. They are disturbed, restless men who need to be brought back into society.
The problem, however, is way bigger than that. Our nation has neglected the pain of young men for far too long. Why are so many giving up on society and their futures? The feminist instinct is to damn males, not to understand them. That can’t be right. After all, we have sons too who could one day either destroy others or themselves because they find life impossible. Feminism made great strides, but we have not thought about the unintended effects of this movement that I wholly support.
Leaders who run our society, politics and economics must interrogate themselves. Some of the men from privileged families who committed suicide felt like failures and losers as they weren’t top achievers. The less well-off are made to feel as if they don’t matter at all, in this fast and materialistic nation where the winner takes all.
Old assumptions persist. Boys don’t cry. They must man up. And new assumptions are just as bad: you are what you have, and furious ambition makes you a man. In this environment, men can find it harder to talk about feelings or ask for help. Within too many Muslim families, authoritarianism rules and adds further pressures.
I thank the academic who made me think about the connections between Islamists and those who feel they are no use to anyone and therefore must die. Humans are more alike than we ever care to admit. The destruction and self-destruction will only get worse unless we collectively try to save young men from themselves.

Every fish you eat is an environmental mystery, but would you pay more to know the truth?

Matthew Evans in The Guardian

The boat’s winch slowly hauls in the net, dripping with mud, with holes finer than my little finger. The boat has been bottom trawling only a few hundred metres off Thailand’s coast, where they’re not meant to be operating. The catch is embarrassingly small compared to even two years ago says my translator, who’s done this trip many times before.
The net drags up crabs the size of my thumbnail, juvenile fish that make sardines look large, broken starfish, jellyfish – every single thing from the water column. It makes me weep.
Virtually none of the catch is for human consumption. These immature fish, a whole ecosystem pillaged from the sea, will be turned into fishmeal to feed farmed white (Vannamei) shrimp, just so we in the west can eat cheap prawns.
I used to have an open mind about sustainable seafood. After countless boat journeys, visits to numerous fish farms, wholesalers, retailers and restaurants while filming What’s the Catch?, a seafood documentary for SBS, I’ve now got a very strong opinion on eating fish: if you don’t know what’s on your plate, if you can’t be sure you aren’t part of the annihilation of the ocean, then don’t eat seafood.
72% of seafood consumed in Australia is imported. In and of itself, that isn’t a bad thing. Australian waters aren’t highly productive (it’s complex, but has to do with our impoverished soil, low rainfall and narrow continental shelf, among other things), so imports are necessary unless we substantially increase fish farming.
There are those that can, and do, profit from obscuring the true origins of our seafood. Estimates suggest 70% of Australians believe we’re eating local seafood, when less than 30% of it is actually from our waters. We’re not told exactly what species we’re eating, where it is from, and how it was caught or farmed, in order to obscure its origins.
Weak labelling laws make things worse. Flathead can be one of a few local species, or a totally unrelated species fished off Argentina, that should be called “stick fish”. Flake can be one of 400 different species of shark, all with different life cycles, maturity rates and environmental consequences.
The fishy mystery is even worse with ready-to-eat seafood; the fish you eat when you go out for a meal. Call it “fish” and eateries don’t have to provide any information on what the fish actually is, or where it’s from. In good restaurants and chippers they’ll tell you that, plus how it’s caught or if it was farmed. But legislators aren’t there to protect us from the good and the noble.
In the dodgy eateries, you won’t even know exactly which fish is on your plate. Pacific Dory? That name’s been used for a non-dory species from Vietnam called Basa, which could be known as Mekong Delta Catfish (an omnivore and potentially efficient fish to farm, so long as it’s done cleanly). Butterfish? Could be South African Hake or local Morwong. Cod? We don’t even have the European species of cod in Australia.
What I’ve seen has given me motivation for change. I want seafood lovers to also become ocean lovers, aware of what they eat and the impact it can have. And I’m not alone. I’ve seen chefs swapping out species of dubious origin for fast growing, locally caught fish. We’ve convinced a pizza chain to replace imported prawns with better tasting, certified sustainable Australian prawns. You can, if you know what to look for, buy independently certified sustainable Hoki from NZ or Hake from South Africa.
Sadly, they’re the exceptions. I think of the vandalism happening in our names off foreign shores. I think back to the destruction I witnessed on a single day in Thailand, in a country that should be encouraged to make their fishing and fish farming sustainable, and I think an honest, fair and open system to tell us what’s on our plates is the very least we in Australia should expect.
If we have to pay a little more so the seas off poorer nations don’t end up completely broken, then – as a world citizen – it’s the price in clear conscience we all must pay.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Where do billionaires go to university?

 By Sean Coughlan

Are the super-rich more likely to be better educated? Or have they spurned scholarship and dedicated themselves to the serious business of being seriously rich?
According to a global census of dollar billionaires, almost two-thirds have a university degree. That means that even for countries with a high level of graduates, billionaires are disproportionately likely to have gone to university.
In the UK, more than four out of five billionaires were in higher education - not so much rags to riches as rag week to riches.
The educational insights are from an annual profile of the uber-rich, the Wealth-X and UBS Billionaire Census, produced by the Swiss banking group and a Singapore-based financial intelligence firm.
It examines the wealth and background of more than 2,300 billionaires - and the findings undermine the image of the wealthy as being self-taught self-starters trained on the market stall.
As well as being much more likely to be graduates, a quarter have postgraduate degrees and more than one in 10 has a doctorate.
This map of wealth also shows that these dollar billionaires - worth at least £620m and typically more than three times this amount - are likely to have attended some of the traditionally most prestigious universities.
The top 20 for universities producing billionaires is dominated by blue-chip, elite US institutions, which take 16 of the places.
Elite institutions
The University of Pennsylvania has produced more than any other institution, followed by Harvard, Yale, the University of Southern California, Princeton, Cornell and Stanford.
And the most likely way of making money is by dealing in money, with billionaires mostly making their fortunes through finance, banking and investment.
But there are also some indications that the geography of the super rich is changing. Reflecting India's growing economy, the University of Mumbai is in ninth place in the league table.
The only UK university in this wealth list is the London School of Economics, in 10th place, with no place for Oxford or Cambridge.
The rise of Russia's wealthy is reflected in the 11th place for Lomonosov Moscow State University.
But the dominance of the US universities is not simply about the US producing more billionaires. More than a quarter of the billionaires who attended US universities to take undergraduate degrees were from other countries.
This was even more the case for postgraduate courses in the US, where 39% came from overseas.
There could also be something of a time-lag, because the average age of this group is 63, attending the university systems of four decades ago.
University donations
The connection with university carries into later life. More than half of billionaires are involved in philanthropic projects and the biggest single cause they support is education - and within this category, it is particularly higher education that gets their backing.
It helps to explain how Harvard's fundraising drive could set an eye-watering target of $6.5bn (£4bn).
The study shows a pattern of wealth being concentrated in a small number of places. More than 40% of billionaires in Europe live in just 10 cities, headed by Moscow and London. Globally the biggest city for billionaires is New York.
It also creates some jarring contrasts. Nigeria has become the country with the most number of children without access to any education - while this report shows that Nigeria is on course to have the most billionaires in Africa.
There have been repeated international studies from organisations such as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development showing that going to university remains a strong investment in terms of improving the chance of a higher-income job.
Such studies have rejected the idea that not going to university could be a smarter move or that the value of a degree will fall below the cost of tuition.
But Frank Furedi, author, social commentator and former professor of sociology, says that one of the "big secrets" of the expansion of higher education has been a growing gap between the most prestigious universities and the rest.
"The hierarchy has become more fixed," says Prof Furedi.
These top universities have become the place where "global players gather".
He says there has always been a tension between universities promoting social mobility and being the route for handing on advantage to the next generation.
"Education has always been contradictory, it's the way that some people make their way up and it's the way of consolidating privilege."

Most billionaire graduates

1. University of Pennsylvania
2. Harvard University
3. Yale University
4. University of Southern California
5. Princeton University
6. Cornell University
7. Stanford University
8. University of California, Berkeley
9. University of Mumbai
10. London School of Economics
11. Lomonosov Moscow State University
12. University of Texas
13. Dartmouth College
14. University of Michigan
15. New York University
16. Duke University
17. Columbia University
18. Brown University
19. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
20. ETH Zurich