Every year when the end of February rolls around, attention focuses on the Budget (usually on the last day of the month) and the Railway budget (usually two days earlier). Often more attention is given when a new party comes to power at the centre, since new epoch-making changes are expected. This year is no exception, though mid-term budgets were presented in the middle of 2014 before the new government had really got to work.
Anyone with a reasonable knowledge and interest in the Indian Railways would remember the charms of budgets in the earlier years. The main interest would lie in whether the fares were increased (they usually weren’t), followed by the introduction of new long-distance trains. And the reaction of the general public and the mass media would be predictable-any increase in fares would lead to a predictable outcry and generally the increase would be rolled back. Then there would be cries of “My city X has been neglected-only 3 new trains while city Y has got 5”.
The railfans look at things somewhat differently. These are what the British would call “anoraks”, though they actually come in various shapes, sizes and ages. Some study timetables and railway maps for pleasure, some study the workings of locomotives and signalling systems in great detail, and others may confine themselves to studies of the history of lines and trains or perhaps be satisfied by filming trains and stations. However, most of them usually end up meticulously studying the new trains and their routes as well as the new lines being opened. They have their own websites and forums* where the pros and cons of all new developments are discussed threadbare.That is how things have been in the past few decades.

Much of the charm of the budget used to lie in the little quirks of the Railway Ministers of the past who often used to toss in quotations from the holy books to make a point. They have included colourful characters like Laloo Prasad and Mamata Banerjee, less flamboyant politicians like Nitish Kumar as well as those with a professional background such as Dinesh Trivedi and the incumbent Suresh Prabhu, who is a chartered accountant who is said to be working on two doctorates at the moment.
In most years populist pressures have prevented fares from being raised although some other ways were found to extract more money from the travelling public. These included raising the quota of tatkal (last-moment) berths, introducing premium special trains and even premium tatkal fares and less obvious changes in reservation charges. The public (and even railfans) do not take much interest in increases in freight charges (not surprisingly, since most freight other than bulk commodities like minerals and petroleum products have switched to road transport).
So what was there for railfans to talk about after Mr Prabhu’s Budget on February 26? Not much. This needs some explanation. Previous budget speeches have generally given details on all the new train services, new lines and railway manufacturing units being started, while this time the focus was on the general improvements which were to be made in making railway operations more efficient, safer and capable of carrying more traffic at higher speeds. There was scarcely any mention of specific new trains or facilities (save for a brief mention of studies continuing on the feasibility of the proposed Mumbai-Ahmedabad high-speed service commonly known as the “bullet train”) and the DFCs (Dedicated Freight Corridors) which are known to be between Northern India and the Mumbai area, and between Northern India and the Kolkata area. There was a brief mention that a 55-km section of the eastern DFC in western Bihar would be opened soon, and that tenders for the final stages of both DFCs would be issued soon. A coy mention is made of plans for four new DFCs, though there is no clue as to where they will be laid.
This is, of course, not as exciting as the announcement of a new express train between Bangalore and Dibrugarh or even a new suburban service between Lucknow and Bara Banki. Some more specific details were given about rail connections to various ports which few of us have heard about. One of them is in Gujarat’s Kutch region called Tuna, although I doubt if you will find tuna in the seas around this port.
This budget does however go into considerable detail about how life is to be made easier for the ordinary traveller-such as how an unreserved ticket could be purchased within 5 minutes of entering the station premises, increasing the number of mobile charging points in coaches, introduction of concierge services at larger stations and even the facility of ordering wheelchairs at your destination.
There is also considerable stress on improving the cleanliness of trains and stations (being part of the Prime Minister’s “Clean India” initiative) and food service (which, with some exceptions, is generally considered to be unsatisfactory). All of these are laudable objectives which show that the Minister and his team have done some serious thinking about the future of the Railways and their important role in the country’s economy.
The saturation of the major routes (often known as the Golden Quadrilateral linking the four major cities) is recognized as a serious bottleneck in improving traffic capacity, and improving this by adding extra tracks, crossings and electrification if necessary. All of this requires large amounts of funding, but this should not be difficult to obtain from a supportive Centre.
To sum up, this Railway Budget does make a welcome change from the populism of the past 20-odd years and shows clear thinking about the problems and prospects of the railway system. But many of those who follow the Railways may be disappointed by the lack of specific details about new passenger services, though they should appreciate the move to improve the rail traveller’s general experience and comfort.

*The most popular Indian railfan group runs the website which has an active discussion forum, although it needs registration if you want to participate.

Several versions of the “Ode to Joy”

You would have been hearing a lot of national anthems recently; for  a ready reference you can turn to this:

But you would not hear the European Union’s anthem “Ode to Joy” at this World Cup or at any other sporting event. Here is one of the more popular renditions in German:

It has versions in other languages, such as this one in English:

Oddly enough, this was sung by a choir in Georgia, USA far from Europe.

And then there is Rowan Atkinson’s version, which is something else again. You need to know a bit about Germany and the German language to get all the jokes:

Someone at Youtube has kindly provided explanatory notes:

“Berlin [capital], Hamburg [city], Schumacher [Toni Schumacher = German goalkeeper]

Baden-Baden [city], Lederhosen [leather pants/trousers, traditional garb in South-Germany and Austria], schnell schnell schnell [quickly quickly quickly]

ja ja [yes yes], nein nein [no no], Apfelstrudel [apple strudel, strudel is a type of layered pastry with filling that is usually sweet], Hoffmeister [German beer type], und [and], Holsten-Pils [German beer type]

Achtung [attention], Liebfrauenmilch im Porsche [Liebfrauenmilch in the Porsche, Liebfrauenmilch = German sort of wine, Porsche = German make of car], umpa [oom-pah], Vorsprung durch Technik [advantage through technology, slogan of the German make of car Audi]

Donner und Blitze(n) [literally: thunder and lightnings – referring to Santas reindeers Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blitzen], britischer Architekt [british architect, that was the pay-off line for a TV advert for the Rover 800 in 1988, the advert depicted sleek British-made cars purring past the “Neue Staatsgalerie” in Stuttgart, designed by James Stirling], tomorrow belongs to me [that’s an allusion to the song “Tomorrow Belongs to Me”, a song from the American movie as well as the Broadway-Musical called “Cabaret” which thematise Berlin 1931 and the rise and takeover of the Nazis]

Schwein [pig] und [and]/ Schweinehund [skunk], Dummkopf [fool], ein Bier bitte [a beer please], Jürgen Klinsmann ist kaputt [Jürgen Klinsmann is broken, German soccer-player in the past and now a soccer-coach]

Boris Becker [German tennis player in the past and now something else], Himmel [heaven], Bum Bum [German ice sort originated in 1986 which is based on the form of a tennis racket, in reference to the moniker of Boris Becker “Bum Bum Boris” when he surprisingly won Wimbledon in 1985], Ich bin ein Berliner [I am a “Berliner”, it’s a quotation from a speech by U.S. President John F. Kennedy in 1963. With that he was underlining the support and solidarity of the USA for West Germany 22 months after Soviet-supported East Germany erected the Berlin Wall to prevent mass emigration to the West]

?holen [?fetch], Kindergarten [kindy/nursery school, originally a German word which became as well common in the English language], Glühwein [mulled wine, a traditional drink in Central Europe which is especially popular in the Advent season on Christmas markets], wo ist sein Skipass (where is his ski pass)

Edelweiß singt Captain von Trapp [Edelweiß sings Captain von Trapp, edelweiß literal translated = noble white, but actually here it means a song from a Musical called “The Sound of Music”], dankeschön [thank you], auf Wiedersehen Pet [literaly translated = See you soon/Goodbye Pet, but actually it means the British comedy-drama TV progamme about seven British migrant construction workers who live in the first series on a building site in the German city Düsseldorf] ”

This is more of a subtle leg-pull of the average Brit whose idea of Germany is limited to stereotyped names and phrases.
It was commented that Mr Atkinson’s German pronunciation was better than that of most Brits.
Anyway here is something more conventional from him, this time playing the role of a waiter in an Indian restaurant in Britain. It is, of course, the Brits and not the Indians whose legs are pulled:
Notice the reference to an obscure Beatles song at the end.

Billy Joel meets the dotcom bust and the oncoming Wall Street meltdown

First remember the original:

Now see it adapted to the dotcom bust of the early 2000s:

And then to the coming unease on Wall Street in 2007:

And that’s not all. Terence Kawaja (the same guy behind Mad Avenue Blues) brought out a sequel in 2008. And Billy Joel later surfaced in the oddest place in India more recently.

Mad Avenue Blues and the mysteries of American Pie

This video is being used as supporting material in MBA courses in digital marketing:

Even if it didn’t make much sense to you, you would remember the original:

This is well known as one of the most incomprehensible pieces of pop music. The Wikipedia article has something on this and (in Further Reading) some links to scholarly articles trying to explain the nuances:

though it oddly gives a lot of importance to Madonna’s version:

Anyway, if you found this worthwhile you might like to hear a similar song by the same person about Wall Street-this time using Billy Joel. And the same song cropped up unexpectedly in Indian politics. More tomorrow.

The Viceroy and the ducks of Bharatpur

This time, I am not dealing with cricketing ducks even though Darren Bravo acquired a rare diamond duck today (a duck without facing a ball). The Keoladeo National Park (also called the Keoladeo Ghana Sanctuary earlier) at Bharatpur is one of the top birdwatching destinations in India. The inhabitants include a large number of ducks. Here are a few we encountered on a recent visit (which makes a convenient day trip out of Jaipur on the little-known Jaipur/Agra Shatabdi). However, this train no longer runs.



We now turn to Lord Linlithgow, Viceroy of India from 1936 to 1943. He had the longest tenure of any Viceroy but was not too successful, dealing with the Second World War, the Quit India Movement and the great famines in Bengal. But there was one thing he excelled in-shooting ducks at Keoladeo Ghana.

In the middle of the park there is a wall with a record of major duck shoots during the Raj. It records the number of ducks shot along with the number of guns in the party. Here is a small but important part of it:


Our friend and his party visited the park on 9 Nov 1936 (1415 ducks shot with 50 guns), again on 6 Dec 1936 (1476/41) and yet again on  6 Feb 1937 (2568/39).

But he was not done with slaughtering ducks yet. On 12 Nov 1938, his party with 39 guns accounted for no less than 4273 ducks (an average of 110 ducks per gun). Probably this would be a world record of some sort. This wall does attract the attention of foreign tourists; the Lonely Planet guide reports that 12 Nov 1938 was a particularly bad day to be a duck.

Fortunately the park is relatively well managed (compared to some others in the same state whose entire tiger population vanished) and is well worth a visit. There even was a resident tigress who was seen in 2005 and not again until she died in 2010. Another wandering tiger turned up later and was captured and sent to repopulate Sariska. Then there are the feral cattle who were abandoned in the park when some villagers were made to leave the area.

Residents of Delhi have a choice of trains to get there in 3 to 4 hours.

National anthems of WC 2015

So the festivities have begun. Since the practice of singing the national anthems seems to have picked up in recent tournaments, here is a quick run through the anthems which you are likely to hear over the next month:












U. A. E.:


(also see


This has a lot of disclaimers and peculiarities, as we will see. There is no country called the West Indies, so this “anthem” is purely used for cricket. I have been able to get the English lyrics or English translations for all the anthems.

As usual in such matters, the United Kingdom is on its own trip.

“God Save The Queen” : is the national anthem of the United Kingdom. Scotland has a separate song which is not an official anthem, but is played at sporting events. That is given above. England sticks with the U.K. anthem for soccer but uses another song called “Jerusalem” for cricket, which is what you hear above. Ireland here includes Northern Ireland (which comes under the U.K.) and the Irish Republic (which is another country whose anthem is given here).

Several countries have versions of their anthems in different languages: New Zealand’s includes Maori followed by English in the same anthem. South Africa’s has five languages, one after another: Xhosa, Zulu, Sesotho, Afrikaans and English. Sri Lanka’s has Sinhala and Tamil versions, but the former is more commonly used. Zimbabwe’s has versions in three languages: Shona, Ndebele and English. Similarly Ireland has it in Gaelic and English. Scotland’s unofficial anthem also has  Scots and  Scots-Gaelic versions, though it is unclear if these are unofficial or even un-unofficial.

The UAE anthem might remind Brits of the term “Blighty”, said to be derived from Urdu: According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word derives from “bilayati”, a regional variant of the Urdu word “vilayati”, meaning “foreign”, “British”, “English” or “European.”

Parting shot: Supporters of one of India’s main political parties might find the Sri Lankan anthem particularly inspiring 🙂

The Walrus and the incomprehensible song

The walrus, remarkable as it may be, does not live anywhere near India. Why, then, should we be concerned about it?
See what it looks like:

Interesting-looking fellow, who bears a strong resemblance to an important person from Nagpur who was last heard demanding that India should be declared a Hindu nation. Or the former NSA of the US.

The walrus does appear in aspects of various cultures-such as the ultimate insult in Russian:


(From “Native Tongues” by Charles Berlitz; perhaps a more useful work than his numerous books about the Bermuda Triangle)

Many of you would remember this poem from your childhood:

and this Beatles song: (with lyrics):

Not one of their best-known songs, but probably the most incomprehensible. Like many of their songs of that period, it must have been composed under the influence of some banned substance (such as the one immortalized in “Lucy in the Sky……) which even gets a mention in this song.

If you want to make any sense of it at all, try reading this:

and a more detailed analysis:

Well, there are a few more of their songs which are almost as obscure although they have been analyzed to death. Even a traditional song like “Greensleeves” has been searched for hidden meanings. American pop music has a few songs which are supposed to have many hidden meanings, such as “The Boxer”, “Hotel California” and of course “American Pie”. More about them later.

Meanwhile, we await the banning of Lewis Carroll and the Beatles in India for bringing the Walrus into disrepute.

More about Samridh Agarwal

This is a continuation of the earlier blogpost about Samridh Agarwal and his cricketing career. Here I will look a little deeper into some of the points mentioned earlier.


If you prefer a jpg file:


Here we can see that 6 of the 9 players played in Tests, i.e. all but Samridh, N. F. Mitchell and N. F. Callaway. Some captained their country. The only example in a Test match is that of Aravinda da Silva, who was captaining Sri Lanka on that occasion.

While N. F. Mitchell had an unremarkable career other than his double century in his last match, the case of N. F. Callaway is quite peculiar. He played in precisely one f-c match, and only one innings in which he scored 207. He was thus the only player in all first-class cricket to score a double century in his only match. There are many who scored a double century on f-c debut and went on to long careers, including G. R. Viswanath and A. A.  Muzumdar.

Even if you had not heard of Mr Callaway earlier, you could probably guess what happened next if you saw the date. Soon after this match he joined the Australian army-and in 1917 became one of the victims of the Great War. More details here:

He was not related to S. T. Callaway who had earlier played a few Tests for Australia.

That leaves us with Samridh Agarwal, who we hope will soon be playing major cricket again and will be rid of this unwanted record.

At this stage you may ask how this state of affairs came about. It is explained here:

The key point is : “He was unable to continue playing in England or be contracted by Surrey as he did not qualify as per ECB rules to play for a county as a domestic player in the English county matches”. More of this in a moment.

In England, the rules can be seen in this Cricinfo article from 2012:

The key points can be seen in the first two paragraphs. Basically if you became a resident of the UK before your 18th birthday, you need to spend 4 years before you are eligible to play for England. If you arrived after 18, it is 7 years.

And the counties might not be interested in you if you are not eligible to play for the country. Presumably this would not matter so much to 2nd XI or league cricket (where Samridh is now playing). It is not immediately clear whether his stay as a school and college student counts as residency or not. And it is not clear whether the rules consider him as arriving before or after he turned 18 (which was in July 2008).

If you are still with me, you may find the rest of the article and comments section of interest. As it often happens, the comments are more insightful than the original articles.

However, I suspect that major cricket has not seen the last of him.

Samridh Agarwal and his world record in first-class cricket

Explanatory notes:

1) This article was primarily written for a readership of alumni of the Doon School, Dehradun who refer to themselves as Doscos.

2) I have had limited personal contact with Mr Samridh Agarwal, though most of the information in this article is available in the public domain.


There are a fair number of Old Boys as well as staff who have played first-class cricket with varying degrees of success. Until recently, Mr R. L. Holdsworth and Michael Dalvi could be said to have the most distinguished records. There were a few who had scored double centuries. But somehow Doscos did not shine as bowlers or all-rounders, and until recently Anand Bhatia’s 4-36 was the best return by an Old Boy in FC matches.

The rewriting of record books began in earnest with Samridh Sunil Agarwal (160-J, 2009). He moved to Millfield after ICSE and then joined Queen’s College at Oxford University. While still at our school he had played for UP’s Under-17 team in the Vijay Merchant Trophy, with present Test player Bhuvneswar Kumar among his team-mates in 2006-07. Later his name appears in the records of Millfield’s inter-school matches in 2009-10. He played primarily as a batsman, though his off-spin was frequently called upon.

His records can be seen under S.S. Agarwal and Sam Agarwal (as an England player) in Cricinfo, though the non first-class matches in India and England are covered better in . (Note that this site is now behind a paywall).He made an unobtrusive first-class debut for Oxford vs Northamptonshire in April 2010, scoring 1 not out. He did make the headlines in the University Match against Cambridge on Jul 6-9, 2010 in which he scored 117 and 5-78. This is one of the few instances of a century plus five-for in the University matches. And he became the first Dosco to take a five–for as well as the only one to complete the all-rounder’s double of a century and five-for in the same match. The scorecard can be seen here:

He wrote himself firmly into the record books in another University Match, the Oxford v Cambridge match on Jul 2-4, 2013. By then he had been awarded his Blue (in 2012) and was captaining Oxford. He made 313 not out, the highest ever score in the University match. He also found enough energy to bowl 32 overs for 97 runs in the match, taking the wicket of Cambridge’s top-scorer in the second innings. Oxford won this match by an innings and 186 runs. The scorecard can be seen here:

Now, you may say, he holds the record for Oxford and is also the only Dosco to score a triple century in first-class cricket. But that doesn’t qualify as a world record. That was yet to come. He played in some matches for Surrey Second XI later in 2013, but has not so far played another first class match. We hope that he soon gets back into regular cricket.

As of today, his first class career record is:

Batting (2010-13): 13 matches, 21 innings, 3 not out, 899 runs, highest 313 not out, Average 49.94, strike rate 61.61, 3 centuries, 3 fifties, 4 catches.

Bowling (2010-13): 13 matches, 2000 balls, 998 runs, 20 wickets, best 5-78, Average 49.90, economy 2.99, strike rate 100.00, one 5wi.

Numerologists may wonder that he has a neat figure of 2000 balls bowled and a strike rate of exactly 100.00. Also his batting average is virtually the same as his bowling average.

(This can be seen from the Wikipedia link at the bottom).

The world record is that he is now the only person to have scored a triple century in his final first-class match-although we should sincerely wish that he soon loses this record once he resumes his cricketing career.

The key here is this link:

Here we have a list of all those who achieved this in their last matches in 2016 or earlier. (There are also some active players who have achieved this in 2016-17 or later, but are not included below since they are likely to play in the future.) As you will see, this list includes some well-known international players.

200 OR MORE IN LAST FIRST-CLASS MATCH AS ON 15 DEC 2014 (In descending order)

Score Name Year

313* S. S. Agarwal 2013

241* A. H.Bakewell 1936

220 N. F. Mitchell 1926-27

217 R. C. Fredericks 1982-83

207 N. F. Callaway 1914-15

207 I. J. Siedle 1936-37

206 P. A. De Silva 2002

200* A. C. MacLaren 1922-23

200* Moin Khan 2005-06

While we may be glad to note that a Dosco holds this unusual world record, I think you will all join me in hoping that he soon loses it!

See this Wikipedia entry:

Cricketing ducks of various kinds

Note: This has not been updated since February 2015. Updates listing scorers of different kinds of ducks and pairs are in separate posts.

You all know what a duck means in cricket. Have you thought of the different types of ducks you can score? Pairs are another matter.

From the Wikipedia article on ducks we have:

“There are several variations used to describe specific types of duck. The usage or prevalence of many of these terms vary regionally, with one term having different meanings in different parts of the world. Even within commentary from ESPN Cricinfo or individual cricket board websites, there is no uniform application of some of these terms.

  • Players who are dismissed by the first ball they face are said to have been dismissed for a golden duck. This term is applied uniformly throughout the cricket world.
  • As an extension of the golden duck, a silver duck and bronze duck can refer to being dismissed for nought on the second ball and third ball respectively. There are no alternative names for these ducks, but these terms are not nearly as common as golden duck.
  • A batsman who is dismissed without facing a ball (most usually run out from the non-striker’s end, but alternatively stumped or run out off a wide delivery) is said to be out for a diamond duck, but in some regions that term has an alternative definition.
  • An opening batsman who is dismissed on the first ball of a team’s innings is said to be out for a diamond duck, platinum duck or royal duck, depending upon the regional usage.
  • An opening batsman who is dismissed on the first ball of a team’s innings without facing a ball is said to be out for a titanium duck, though due to the extreme rarity of this occurring, this term is not widely used.
  • A batsman who is dismissed for a duck concluding the batting team’s innings is said to be out for a laughing duck.
  • A batsman who is dismissed for a duck on the first ball of the match in his or her team’s first match of the season is said to be out for a golden goose.

Now we look closer at the incidence of various kinds of ducks in various formats. Note that while data on ducks are readily pulled out from scorecards, the number of balls in a batsman’s innings were often not recorded in earlier scorecards, even in Tests. Cricinfo does have precise data from 2000 onwards. The following Test in 1990-91 is particularly frustrating for statisticians:

In this match we see that Sachin Tendulkar scored 11 in 92 minutes in India’s only innings. But the number of balls is not recorded for him and most other batsmen in this match. So we do not know the total number of balls faced by SRT in his Test career, or exact statistics for his strike rate.

So we see that any listing of diamond ducks golden ducks and the like will be incomplete due to the lack of data, particularly from the earlier years of Tests.

The total number of ducks in Tests up to Feb 2015 is 8175.

This includes 26 diamond ducks of 0 balls,(minimum, the full number may never be known)

1434 golden ducks(1 ball)

1007 silver ducks( 2 balls)

732 bronze ducks ( 3 balls)

and you can extend this as long as you want.

We start with a listing of all known cases of diamond ducks in Tests:

Overall diamond ducks

Note that the renowned batsman C. S. Martin is the only one to have made two diamond ducks.

Indians to have achieved the diamond duck include B. S. Bedi, A. D. Gaekwad, R. K. Chauhan, R. Dravid and Harbhajan Singh.

Only these three have scored a diamond duck on debut (below). Rutherford went on to get a pair on debut, but was a successful batsman later.

Diamond duck on debut

There is no case of a diamond pair. The closest approach to one appears to be that of Taufeeq Umar who scored a pair with innings of 0 and 2 balls, thus scoring 0 in two innings with 2 balls which is the equivalent of a ‘king pair” or dismissal off the first ball of each innings.

A total of 141 Indians have scored golden ducks. The table is too large to conveniently fit in here , but we have some multiple appearances here: Kapil Dev and Zaheer Khan (7), Harbhajan Singh and V. Sehwag (6), with Agarkar, Gavaskar and Tendulkar with 5.

A total of 94 players have scored golden ducks on debut (though this could have been in their first or second innings). These include 5 Indians: (Kishenchand, Hardikar, B. Reddy, Maninder and U. Yadav).

Similarly, a total of 60 players have scored silver ducks on debut. Those from India are: Rangnekar, Maninder, Harbhajan, Robin Singh (Jr) and Praveen Kumar. Note that Maninder Singh scored  1-ball and 2-ball zeroes on debut.

And a total of 45 players scored bronze ducks on debuts. 6 of them were from India including current player W. Saha.

We will come to pairs next time-not only plain pairs but king pairs, queen pairs and jack pairs (OK, I made up the last two myself but you should guess what they are)