The jinx in India-Pakistan matches

Note: This was written before the start of the 2017 Champions Trophy.

It is often said that India dominates Pakistan in ICC tournaments. Hence the “Mauka Mauka” ads which aired at the beginning of the 2015 World Cup.

Let us see take a closer look at the history of these encounters. First, the World Cup:

I v P World Cup

India and Pakistan never met in the World Cups of 1975, 1979, 1983 and 1987. They were somehow always drawn in different groups so they could have met only in the semi-finals or finals. It was not until 1992 that they met in the World Cup. In that tournament all teams played each other in the knockout stage.

They met in the quarter-finals in 1996, Super Six in 1999, and a pool match in 2003. India won all these matches so the feeling of a jinx over Pakistan kept growing.

In 2007, both India and Pakistan were jinxed and failed to proceed beyond the pool stage, being displaced by Bangladesh and Ireland respectively.

In 2011, India won in the semi-final and repeated this in a pool match in 2015. So India have won all 6 encounters.

If you want to see the scorecards, open this link and click on the blue square on the extreme right.

http://stats.espncricinfo.com/ci/engine/stats/index.html?class=2;filter=advanced;opposition=7;orderby=start;team=6;template=results;trophy=12;type=team;view=results

Now we go to the T20 World Championship. We will come back to the Champions Trophy at the end.

I v P T20

The teams met twice in the inaugural championship in 2007. Though the match in the pool stage was a tie, India got the winner’s points as they won in the bowl-out which was then the method used to determine the winner of a tied match.

Then India won against Pakistan in the final. The teams did not meet in 2009 and 2010. India won the next three encounters in 2012, 2014 and 2016. All of these were in the group stages and not the semi-final or final. Thus India leads 5-0 (including the tie) in the World T20 Championship.

You can see the scorecards from this link:

http://stats.espncricinfo.com/ci/engine/stats/index.html?class=3;filter=advanced;opposition=7;orderby=start;team=6;template=results;trophy=89;type=team;view=results

For details of the bowl-out in the first match in 2007, see the commentary section rather than the scorecard.

But the story in the Champions Trophy is somewhat different:

I v P Chamions

India and Pakistan did not meet in 1998, 2000 or 2002 (when India shared the trophy with Sri Lanka). Pakistan won the first encounter in 2004 in the group stage. They did not meet in 2006. Pakistan won in 2009, also in the group stage. India finally won in 2013, in a group match on their way to the trophy.

So the jinx on Pakistan in ICC tournaments does not apply to Pakistan in the Champions Trophy, where they lead India 2-1. Let us see what happens when they meet on June 4. India currently has a higher ranking than Pakistan, but that has no bearing in high-tension encounters like these.

See the scorecards here:

http://stats.espncricinfo.com/ci/engine/stats/index.html?class=2;filter=advanced;opposition=7;orderby=start;team=6;template=results;trophy=44;type=team;view=results

 

 

Oddities in station signs in India-1

First, we look at examples of station signs in some languages which you may not see often.

The only major station with Maithili:

Darbhanga station Maithili

And the only station in Manipur, which naturally has Manipuri:

Jiribam-manipuri

Note the brand new broad gauge line above.

As you would know, the language policy for railway stations (and most Central government buildings, such as post offices) would be to have English, Hindi and the regional language. If Hindi is the local language then there would be two languages on the board, and more if some other language is common in that area.

Examples of English + Hindi are common in Rajasthan , Haryana and Madhya Pradesh although a few stations do have Urdu as well.

From Rajasthan:

Note that the picture from Jaipur shows a metre gauge line which will not be around for long.

From Haryana:

 

Now we move to some states where English is the main official language (although other spoken languages are commonly used). You would probably not heard of most of these places:

Dimapur, Nagaland:

Dimapur

Bairabi, Mizoram: (This is from metre gauge days but broad gauge has now come here)

Bairabi

Mendipathar, Meghalaya:

Mendipathar

Naharlagun, Arunachal Pradesh:

Naharlagun

Note that in Hindi-speaking states the Hindi inscription is at the top. In most states the regional language (say Bengali or Tamil) is at the top. In the signs above from Nagaland, Mizoram and Meghalaya English is at the top but in Arunachal Pradesh the Hindi inscription is at the top.

At the moment Sikkim is the only state with no railway line at all, though the mileage is negligible in several of the North-eastern states (Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Nagaland). In some states there is precisely one station about a kilometre inside the border. Assam and now Tripura are somewhat better served.

A typical trilingual sign would be this one in Gujarat, much beloved of cricket fans:

Sachin

Meanwhile, there are signs in four or even five languages elsewhere on the Indian railway network. More on these later.

Summary of the extreme points of India

Hope that some have found these posts informative. I am listing them below:

https://abn397.wordpress.com/2016/03/18/the-extreme-points-of-india/

https://abn397.wordpress.com/2016/03/19/the-northernmost-points-in-india/

https://abn397.wordpress.com/2016/03/21/the-easternmost-points-of-india/

https://abn397.wordpress.com/2016/04/02/the-westernmost-points-of-india/

https://abn397.wordpress.com/2016/04/08/the-southernmost-points-of-india/

The extreme points of India

We hear the phrase “From Kashmir to Kanyakumari” or the next-door version “from Khyber to Karachi”. In Britain there is “From Land’s End to John O’Groats” which are supposed to be the extreme southwest and extreme northeast points of the British mainland. In contrast, the US gets by with “From sea to shining sea” in one of their patriotic songs.

Ever wondered about the extreme points of India? One may think that the question is answered in the Wikipedia article linked below. Actually it is not as simple as that as there are several different ways of deciding where India ends in the north. (Do you mean what the official atlas says, or the point actually under Indian military control? And since many countries think that Kashmir is a disputed territory, then what should be the “undisputed”northernmost point?)

Even the eastern border is disputed by China although it is firmly in Indian control. The western extreme is a point in the sea off the Gujarat-Sind border. And the southernmost point is not Kanyakumari on the mainland but a remote settlement on an island in the Nicobars, with a population of 27.

We shall be visiting these places over the next few blogposts. We also look at the nearest inhabited places (which are hard to find unless you are at Kanyakumari).

Read this first: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_extreme_points_of_India

The Satpura Railway still exists!

Note: This was written in December 2015 and has not been updated.

In the last few months, there have been a number of articles in the popular media and rail fan groups regarding the demise of the network of narrow-gauge lines in Central India known as the Satpura Railway, now coming under the South East Central Railway.

If you were to take these articles seriously, you would imagine that these lines were being permanently closed down leaving this area without rail communication. They are, of course, being converted to broad gauge and this network has been gradually converted over the last decade. You can expect the conversion to be over within a couple of years.

Here we have an 1964 map of the then SER which shows all the NG lines long before Project Unigauge was even thought of.

SER 1964 001

Note the numerous NG branches all over the zone. However, the Raipur branches and everything east were not part of the Satpura system.

For the moment, however, there still exists one functioning narrow gauge line between Nagpur and Nagbhir which has three pairs of trains a day. This will also face the conversion axe sooner or later, but you can certainly travel there now. Thanks to local expert Alok Patel for this tipoff.

Here you can see the overall list of trains (from an official website, but errors are not impossible):

Nagpur-Nagbhir:

Nagpur Nagbhir

Nagbhir-Nagpur:

Nagbhir Nagpur

Here are the timetables for the first trains in either direction:

Nagpur-Nagbhir:

Nagpur Nagbhir TT

Nagbhir-Nagpur:

Nagbhir Nagpur TT

Note that the station of Moti Bagh was known for its narrow-gauge loco shed and other workshops (besides a small railway museum) but was not used for regular passenger services. I do not think it appeared in passenger timetables until now.

For instance, it is not there in the printed timetable of 2014. That shows the first train leaving from Nagpur at 05.55. The second train given above is shown at Itwari at 10.10/10.15 and then at Nagpur at 10.45.

So the laments for the demise of the narrow gauge Satpura Railway were a little premature. Ride this 110-km route south of Nagpur while you can. There are also a few BG trains running through Nagbhir. These include an express between Chennai and Bilaspur (once weekly in each direction) and between Yesvantpur and Korba (twice weekly).

This map showing part of Nagpur may be helpful:

https://www.google.co.in/maps/@21.1552413,79.1014885,15z

Incorporating a few comments received from my old friend Alok Patel:

“Conversion has been sanctioned for the NGP-NABN line but no serious allocations done yet. I suspect they will want to complete the main Satpura lines first since the Nagpur-Chhindwara-Jabalpur-Gondia network had surprisingly high traffic. Also note that the station code for Nagbhir Narrow Gauge has been changed to NABN to signify NG. The BG station must now be using the code NAB”

“I haven’t been to MIB for a long time now but the trains don’t start from MIB per se. They start from the MIB yard, go to NGP, reverse at NGP, go down the same route till the triangle at MIB where they stop to pick up passengers, bypass the MIB yard at the triangle and continue towards Itwari. I suspect the one kilometre or so long NGP-MIB stretch won’t stay operational for much more time, now that the key Chhindwara side traffic has ceased to exist.”

 

 

Lies, damn lies and statistics in cricket

It has been said that there are lies, damn lies and statistics. And Test cricket is a good place to check this out.

After the conclusion of the India-South Africa series we ask Statsguru a few questions. The answers will not be what you expect.

Q1: Who is the best opening bowler in Tests in the 2010s?

A1: Consider all those who bowled at No 1 or 2 since 01 Jan 2010 and took at least 50 wickets while doing so, and rank them by their bowling averages.

Opening bowlers since 2010

Didn’t realize it was a spinner, did you?

Q2: OK, something more conventional. Who is India’s best opening bowler of all time?

A2: Consider all Indian bowlers who bowled at No 1 and No 2, and took at least 50 wickets while doing so. Rank them by their bowling averages.

India-opening bowler

Probably you should have seen that coming.

Q3: OK, but wasn’t Kapil Dev India’s greatest all-rounder?

A3: Let us consider all Indians who scored the double of 1000 runs/100 wickets, and rank by them by the difference between their batting average and bowling average. This measure is as good as any other means for ranking all-rounders.

India-allrounder

Well, you should have seen that one coming too.

It is up to you to decide how seriously you take these figures.

 

The Indians (and Brits) who fought on Hitler’s side

By now you know all about the heroic (?) deeds of the INA in East Asia. But you would not know about the Indians who fought in Hitler’s SS. The SS was not really racist-it had units from much of the Commonwealth, even a British unit as well as numerous non-Aryans from all over.

The main reference is:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Waffen-SS_foreign_volunteers_and_conscripts#British_Commonwealth

though I am summarizing the main points below:

India: 2,500 in the
Indisches Freiwilligen Infanterie Regiment 950 or “Tiger Legion” This is described in some detail (including Netaji’s role) here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indian_Legion

Stranger still was the story of the Britischer Freikorps in the SS (which had a peak strength of 27, not enough for a platoon).
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_Free_Corps

This was indeed so obscure that few people in Britain had heard about it until the publication of the popular novel “The Eagle Has Landed” in the mid-70s. But it does not seem to figure in the movie.

The British government did, indeed, execute a few individuals such as William Joyce (Lord Haw-Haw) and John Amery for participating in broadcasts for Germany’s Ministry of Propaganda (headed by Herr Goebbels). But the irrelevance of the British Free Corps meant that nothing much happened to them.

Also see:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V-jHuqkZzOw

 

and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Xdx1gd_ZP0&t=42s

Wish him happy birthday on Sep 17

As you know, several famous Indians were born on September 17. Some are fortunate to have Mallika Sherawat singing birthday greetings for them. Here we look at one who is not a politician but is famous in his own right as

  1. India’s best Test all-rounder, surpassing Kapil
  2. The second-best spinning all-rounder in all Tests, ahead of bigger names like Mankad and Benaud.

In these tables we are considering a cutoff of 1000 runs, 100 wickets, batting average above 15.00, bowling average below 45.00. Ranking is by (Batting average-Bowling average).

Indian all-rounders:

Ashwin1

Spinning all-rounders from all countries.

Note that Statsguru does not seem to consider Sobers and Greig to be spinners, since they bowled medium-pace as well.

Ashwin2

Tail piece: he is also India’s leading opening bowler of the 2010s (ie bowling at no 1 or 2)-far ahead of regular opening bowlers such as Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma:

Ashwin

More odd Indian locomotives

Many of you would have visited the National Rail Museum at Delhi at some time. While there are a lot of things to see there, there are some particularly peculiar locomotives whose unusual nature you may not notice if you are in a hurry to see all the exhibits.

Like this one:

Ramgotty 001

Apart from its odd name, it is a survivor of the only 4-ft gauge line in India though it soon got itself converted to BG. And it must be one of the very few non-British locomotives purchased in the earlier days.

Another non-standard line was the one from Chingleput to Conjeevaram which started off as 3 ft 6 inch but, as in the above case, was soon absorbed by a larger system and converted to metre gauge. None of the locos from there have survived. In recent years this line has been converted to BG as well as electrified, and sees numerous EMUs from Chennai besides a few long-distance trains.

An odd example of industrial locomotive is seen here:

Fireless 001

One of the numerous methods used to try to eliminate sparks and flames in volatile atmospheres. Obviously it needed to be “recharged” frequently and was perhaps not convenient for shunting BG wagons.

A slice of history: Indian Airlines in 1972 and the Tripura hopper

For those who are interested in old airline timetables, this may be one of the best resources available. It covers most corners of the world:

http://www.timetableimages.com/ttimages/complete/complete.htm

We pick on Indian Airlines when it was the only domestic airline and covered a number of places which are not served by any other airline today.

ic72-02

Examples being Keshod, Jamshedpur, Cooch Behar, Lilabari and the Tripura trio of Khowai, Kamalpur and Kailashahar. Also note that in those days the flights from Calcutta to Port Blair had a technical halt at Rangoon-as the Viscounts didn’t have the range and probably Caravelles and 737s could not be spared for these routes. Even today few people realize that the Andaman and Nicobar Islands are much closer to Myanmar and Indonesia than to the Indian mainland.

Here is a sample of the timetables on the less important routes. (Of course, you can see the entire timetable through the link given above):

IAC 1972 TT 001

The airport at Keshod was supposed to facilitate visitors to the Gir forest. It has permanently shut down, while in the same general area Diu is now served by one flight a day. The famous Tripura flight (operated by a Dakota) can also be seen.

There are some odd things about the airport at Agartala. I have a small connection with this as the state government acquired the land from my maternal grandfather’s family in the late 1930s. They were probably happy with this as the land was not very suitable for growing tea.

Now take a look at this map showing it as it is today:

https://www.google.co.in/maps/@23.888003,91.2387921,14z

You can see that the runway is very close to the India-Bangladesh border. Any flight from Kolkata to Agartala would begin its descent long before it enters Indian territory. (This also happened at Shillong when commercial flights operated there for a short time). The airport is located near a village called Singarbil, and there is a railway station of that name across the border. It started functioning in 1942. Apart from limited civilian traffic, the airport was used by the US military as a base for air-dropping of supplies in Burma and China.

Now, in the period from 1947 to 1952 there was still a lot of travel between India and East Pakistan. As the partition in the East was relatively peaceful (unlike the earlier events in Noakhali and Tippera (Comilla) districts), there were many Hindus as well as Muslims who thought they were all right where they were and did not think of moving immediately.

There was a cutoff date sometime in 1952 by when people had to decide which country they wanted to be citizens of. During this transition period my mother and other members of her family used to regularly travel between Calcutta and a place in Sylhet district.

One could take the land route, but that involved long ferry crossings (around half a day from Goalundo to Narayanganj, still more from Goalundo to Chandpur) and a fairly long journey to the ultimate destination near Kulaura. Then, as now, air fares to Agartala were highly subsidized. They normally flew to Agartala, stepped off the runway and walked a few hundred metres to the border. Sometimes there was a single bored policeman at the border, sometimes not. A little further one would find rickshaws to Akhaura, from where one could get trains to anywhere in the eastern part of East Pakistan.

We now take a look at the Tripura hopper shown on p.15 above, which must be India’s best example of rural air transport. At that time roads were very limited in Tripura, and some WW2 airfields came in useful to connect Calcutta and Agartala with Khowai, Kamalpur and Kailashahar. These places are so obscure that it is difficult to find them on an average atlas. Here is the route from Agartala onwards:

Tripura map 001

As we see from the timetable, the scheduled time was typically 20 minutes between these airports. From the published coordinates, the straight-line flight distances were:

Agartala-Khowai: 41 km

Khowai-Kamalpur: 23 km

Kamalpur-Kailashahar: 28 Km

This 23-km and 28-km hops would have been the shortest-ever distances on any scheduled flights in India (though there are some in places like the Scottish islands where there are flights of 1 to 2 km). A news report of that period mentioned that on these short hops a student concession ticket may have cost as little as Rs 5.

Anyway, it appears that these three airports have not been used for many years and may now be unusable. In the mean time roads have improved and the railway line connecting Tripura with the rest of India was built at a snail’s pace over 60 years and finally reached Agartala. It was converted to broad gauge recently and extended to Udaipur, Belonia and Sabroom by 2019. An extension to a place near Akhaura will be opened soon. This will probably involve transhipment of containers from the metre gauge of Bangladesh to broad gauge.

When Indian Airlines phased out their Dakotas soon after this timetable came out, many of these small airports with little traffic lost their connection. Vayudoot may have run their 19-seat Dorniers for a while to some of these places, but the airline itself vanished quite quickly. Thus ended the golden era of aviation in Tripura. In no other state were such small towns served by a national airline.

A related article on Indian Airlines’ operations in the early 1960s can be seen here:

https://abn397.wordpress.com/2015/04/28/a-1962-article-on-indian-airlines/

The Kalka-Shimla Railway-a brief account

The Kalka-Shimla mountain railway is one of the best-known railway lines in India and has featured in a number of literary works and at least one BBC documentary in recent years. This is intended to summarize the main points about the line as it is today. The route was opened as a whole (95.68 Km) on 9 Nov 1903. A further 0.77 Km to the “Old bullock train station” was opened on 27 Jun 1909. Possibly the present line (length 95.57 as per current railway database) includes a small portion of the extension. Here we have a list of stations (in both directions). This information is taken from the site http://rbs.indianrail.gov.in/ShortPath/ShortPath.jsp which is useful for the dedicated railfan. I have added the altitude data from passenger timetables. The distances shown below are actual distances, and I am not getting into the complexities of chargeable distance here.

KS Stations1 KS Stations2

The main technical point is that the ruling gradient is 1 in 33 uncompensated. Those who are really fond of number crunching can find the gradients between intermediate stations. Here are the summary of trains running in both directions in May 2015.

KS1 KS2

As you can see, trains are listed as having AC chair car, First Class and Second Class seating. The railcars have only first class. The Shivalik Express and the Himalayan Queen have non-AC seats which are somewhat better than the second class seats, but are charged using the fare tables for AC chair car. The three trains other than the railcar and Shivalik Express have unreserved second class seats, though reserved seats are available only on one train as you can see above.

It is common for the average person or media source to refer to the trains on this line as a toy train. This appears to be unjustified as the trains are as long and as heavy as their narrow gauge counterparts on the plains. And the volume of passenger traffic (at least 5 pairs of daily trains) would be more than that on many broad gauge and metre gauge branch lines.

Additional railcars and trains may run at short notice during the summer. These are generally not given in the printed timetables. However, most knowledgeable travellers have now shifted to the online timetables. The most user-friendly is probably http://erail.in/  from where the above tables are taken. One can also use this website to get timetables for individual trains, such as this one for the downward Himalayan Queen:

KS3

As you can see, this train stops at about half the stations. It seems to have a rake of 5 reserved coaches and two brake cum unreserved coaches. Barog appears to be a mandatory stop for all trains for catering purposes. In fact there is not much of a local population and this station seems to exist only for catering purposes. The station is named after a British construction engineer named Barog (though this does not sound like a typical British surname).

This train connects with a BG express train to New Delhi in both directions. That is also called the Himalayan Queen, though it starts from Kalka with a number of coaches which are removed at Panipat and proceed to Bhiwani as the Ekta Express. There are also two Shatabdi Expresses to New Delhi and the long-standing Kalka Mail to Old Delhi and Howrah, which is probably one of the oldest long-distance trains on IR. There is also a link train which connects Kalka to the Paschim Express to and from Mumbai.

There are many videos about this line available on Youtube; as a sample here are some taken by my family in 2010:

Shivalik Express: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wO0NifZGk9w

And from Shimla to Kalka by the Himalayan Queen, plus a bit of Chandigarh:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bMr-rg1WUAs

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I02rQUo_ggY

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 had briefly been 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:

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

Riga Latvia

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:

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 their 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.