Man of the moment-Kirti Azad

Kirti Azad is not the only Indian international cricketer to have entered politics-but his impact on cricket may well have been more than that of more distinguished players who went into politics (e.g. Navjot Sidhu, Chetan Chauhan and Azharuddin).

He was born into a political family-his father Bhagwat Jha Azad was a freedom fighter and was briefly a Congress CM of Bihar in 1988-89. In contrast, Kirti is now a third-term MP of the BJP, presently representing Darbhanga. This is what the Lok Sabha website has to say:

http://164.100.47.192/Loksabha/Members/MemberBioprofile.aspx?mpsno=25

But we now concentrate on his relatively undistinguished cricketing career which nevertheless had some high points. We start with the Cricinfo player page:

http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/content/player/26325.html

As you can see, Cricinfo does not think he is important enough to rate a photograph.

It can be seen that he played 7 Tests with a top score of 24 and best bowling of 2-84. By some criteria one could consider him among the worst Test players of all time, since there might be only a handful of players who played that many Tests without scoring above 30 or taking a 3-for.

His main contribution to Indian cricket was in the 1983 World Cup, where he played a small supporting role in most of the matches-but came good when it was needed in the semi-final against England:

http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/engine/match/65088.html

He took a miserly 1-28 off 12 overs (while Mohinder Amarnath took 2-27).

The one wicket he took was that of Botham.

Old-timers would remember how he almost single-handedly won a match against Pakistan-which was not an official ODI or even a List A match:

http://cricketarchive.com/Archive/Scorecards/141/141520.html

In domestic FC cricket he had a fairly impressive record, more as a batsman (20 centuries) than a bowler (5 fivers, no tenner).

But he seemed to have some strange power over England’s batsmen. His two best bowling analyses were against touring MCC teams. His best innings figures of 7-63 and match figures of 9-134 came in 1981-82 when he was still in contention for Tests and ODIs:

http://static.espncricinfo.com/db/ARCHIVE/1980S/1981-82/ENG_IN_IND/ENG_PRES-XI_17-19NOV1981.htm

Much later, long after he had played his last match for India, he took 6-30 for Delhi against the ill-fated 1992-93 MCC team:

http://static.espncricinfo.com/db/ARCHIVE/1992-93/ENG_IN_IND/ENG_DELHI_03-05JAN1993.html

This was one of the last FC matches he played.

Anyway, the contest between a BJP backbencher and top leader is likely to generate enough heat and light in the days to come.

Update: As expected, Kirti Azad was suspended from the BJP on disciplinary grounds on Dec 23.

 

 

Railfanning in Riga

Those in the older age group would first have heard of Riga in this limerick:

There was a young lady of Riga,
Who smiled when she rode on a tiger.
They came back from the ride
With the lady inside,
And the smile on the face of the tiger.

If your general knowledge was better, you would know that Riga was the capital of the Latvian Soviet Socialist Republic, and that Latvia was briefly an independent country which was swallowed by the Soviet Union in the 1940s. It finally became independent in 1991 and now has EU membership, the Euro, Schengen visas and all the other trappings of modernity.
But our story is not about that Riga but the other one closer to home:

Riga

While this is the station at the other Riga, which truly befits a nation’s capital:

The Indian Riga is near Sitamarhi in Bihar:

https://www.google.co.in/maps/@26.648306,85.429489,12z

It’s main claim to fame is this company:

http://www.rigasugar.com/about%20us.htm

The company has its own metre gauge railway line with one saddle-tank steam loco and one diesel shunter (both from the 1930s) which were until recently hard at work hauling sugarcane. Despite its inaccessibility it attracted the attention of foreign steam fans.

Some pictures can be seen here:

http://www.internationalsteam.co.uk/trains/india035.htm

Though you may find this 11-minute video more interesting:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TvNRHzYqTtI

This is mainly devoted to the steam loco hauling wagons laden with sugarcane. There is a brief glimpse of a regular diesel-hauled metre gauge passenger train from 7.00 to 7.25.

Time has stood still here for many decades. However, you will look in vain for the lady and the tiger.

UPDATE: The above Youtube clip is from 2005, when Riga station was on the metre gauge line from Darbhanga to Raxaul and thus had freight trains carrying sugarcane. The factory’s trains used to move these freight wagons to the factory. More recently, the section has been converted to broad gauge. While this has enabled a few express trains from Delhi, Kolkata and elsewhere to traverse this route, none of them stop at Riga.It is served only by slow passenger trains: http://erail.in/riga-railway-station

More importantly, freight trains to this station are now broad gauge and thus the wagons cannot be used on the metre gauge line to the factory. So it seems that the two hard-working locos from 1930 and 1935 may now have retired.