Davis Love III announced three of his four Ryder Cup picks on Monday, as Rickie Fowler, Kuchar and J.B. Holmes heard their names called during the news conference.But one spot remains up for grabs and Kuchar thinks he has the answer.Speaking in an interview on Golf Channel, Kuchar said he has “heard” Woods may receive the final captain’s pick despite his status as a vice-captain.”I heard even possibly, this is hearsay, but heard maybe even Tiger Woods could potentially be a pick,” he said following the news conference.”And that would be legen … dary. Legendary. That’s just hearsay, it could strictly be rumour.”But I know he’s playing Safeway. Imagine Tiger Woods being a playing [assistant] captain. Absolutely incredible.”Many wondered why Love was leaving one pick so late — it will be revealed after the Tour Championship, which is five days before the tournament starts — but it would make sense if he was waiting to confirm whether or not Woods was healthy enough to compete.Woods has not played a competitive round since finishing in the top 10 at last season’s Wyndham Championship, but he announced last week that he will compete in the Safeway Open on October 13-16.
0Shares0000NAIROBI, Kenya, July 18 – Two-legs for professional golfers have been included in the 2014/15 Barclays Amateur Golf Circuit roster for the first time with the seven-month long tournament set to tee-off at Nakuru Country Club on August 16.The pros will be using the tournament to prepare for next year’s Kenya Open that is part of the European Challenge Tour and will compete over four days during the Nairobi and Kitale legs of the series where Sh500, 000 (USD 5,695) is up for grabs for the winner. The third edition of the event, has attracted 35 clubs with over 2, 800 amateur golfers expected to battle it out for the top prize in addition to the top 20 finishers securing slots in the 2015 Kenya Open ProAm that will be held at Karen Country Club.“We are going to get more participants in this tournament because we have many clubs and the prize money is fantastic, this is the way forward where winners will get a chance to participate in the pro-am at next year’s Kenya Open,” Kenya Golf Union (KGU) chairman Francis Okwara said when launching the event Friday.“For the professionals, there is nothing good as using a competition as part of their practice, so this is a nice platform for,” he added.The series that will be hosted in 14 clubs among them Machakos, Nyanza, Nyali and most of those in Nairobi is open to golfers with valid Council of National Golf Unions handicaps and junior golfers ranging from 13 to 18 years.Organisers will conduct golf clinics as part of the circuit in Nairobi under the guidance of professionals before each tee-off.“Our main focus is to help the beginners grow in the sport and that’s the reason we are conducting the clinics that we have already started. We expect youths to participate and learn the sport or for those who want to improve their handicap this coaching will really help them,” Director of Consumer Banking, Barclays Bank of Kenya, Zahid Mustafa, stated.0Shares0000(Visited 1 times, 1 visits today)
“Women have high bragging rights. You’ve got to have a good story to bring back to your girlfriends,” said Helen Malani, chief shopping expert at Los Angeles-based price comparison Web site Shopzilla.com. “You see women comparing the size of flower bouquets, almost like a measure of (his) love.” Play it safe, go exotic That competition is leading to more exotic gifts, like cooking classes or hot-air balloon rides, as men feel pressured to outdo themselves, Malani said. According to results from separate surveys by Shopzilla and the National Retail Federation released last week, romance on Valentine’s Day is more important to men than women, and men are planning to spend more this February than they did last year. That means moving beyond flowers and candy. “Men want to spend quality time with women, and that comes across in what they want as an experience. We’ve seen a big upswing in personalized gifts … there are sushi-making classes with personalized fortune cookies, dance lessons.” The theme this year, Malani said, is “experiential.” “Experiences (more so than objects) create romance and bonding,” she said. It’s hard to know what is prompting men to be more open-minded in the quest for romance. But Malani attributes a lot of it to women’s disappointment with Valentine’s Day gifts from years past. “Fifty-five percent of women say they have been let down in previous holidays. Over time, messages do resonate.” Luckily, party planners and attractions across Southern California have already come up with plenty of very romantic, unusual experiences sure to impress the pickiest of Valentines. Here are a few: Beyond dark chocolate Dining in the dark a trend that started in Europe has come to Los Angeles. Opaque, a restaurant located in the Hyatt West Hollywood on the Sunset Strip, seats guests in a pitch-black dining room to be guided and served by blind or visually impaired individuals who have been specially trained to serve meals in the dark. The idea is to create the sensation of temporary blindness to concentrate all the senses on the food. Three-course meals (around $100) feature unusual dishes such as pancetta-wrapped filet mignon, truffled mac and cheese and Thai curry with forbidden rice & baby bok choy. Be warned: Diners will need to let their tastebuds confirm just what it is they’re eating. For reservations, see www.darkdining.com, or call (800) 710-1270. Chocolate spa You’re not actually bathing in liquid chocolate, but it’s about as close as you can get. For $125, the Gauthier Total Image Spa in Sherman Oaks will wrap your body in chocolate sauce, to “detoxify and balance excess body fluids.” Other Chocolate Spa treatments include the Hot Chocolate Melt Away, in which hands are dipped in warm chocolate paraffin, body is massaged with a Chocolate Cake scrub, and warm stones are massaged on the neck and shoulders, all while taking hot chocolate and biscotti. For spa and chocolate lovers who prefer to indulge at home, Gauthier is selling gift baskets filled with an aromatic Chocolate Candle, Chocolate Mint Body Scrub, Chocolate Body Mask, Chocolate Shower Gel, Chocolate Liquid Soap, Chocolate Bar (hand soap) and Chocolate Body Moisturizer ($120). Love is in the air When roses and chocolate just won’t do, treat a loved one to a hang-gliding lesson. The husband-and-wife team at High Adventure will take you into the skies above San Bernardino, with views of Crestline and Marshall Peak. Tandem lessons are $140. Call (909) 883-8488 or go to http://www.flytandem.com. Wine, dine and dance Watch tango and salsa preformed by professional dancers while you enjoy a romantic dinner of Spanish tapas and wine at Wiens Family Cellars in Temecula. The sampling event, on Feb. 11, the Sunday before Valentine’s Day, will include four wines paired to each of the tapas on the menu. Join the dancers after dinner for salsa and tango lessons. $65 for wine club members; $75 for nonmembers. Call (888) 989-4367 for reservations. Moonlight serenade Hire a mini-mariachi band to serenade your sweetie at a restaurant, at the beach, on a balcony or just at home. Party Time Entertainment will send three or four mariachis to the location of choice for $300 to $500. Gary Valentine, manager, says he gets a lot of requests for house calls to help patch up lovers’ quarrels, and demand is always high for romantic proposals of marriage. For reservations and more information, call (310) 393-8353. Going stag Who says Valentine’s Day is a strictly couples-only holiday? Each year, the Queen Mary in Long Beach, one of Southern California’s most romantic spots, celebrates Singles Night Out, a Valentine’s Day party in its Grand Exhibit Hall. This year, original Saturday Night Live cast member Garret Morris hosts and The Knack performs live ($20). Go to www.lasinglesnightout.com for tickets, or call (310) 722-5612. A birthday for Elmo Kids can celebrate Valentine’s Day, too. Mrs. Nelson’s Book and Toy Shop in the city of La Verne is throwing a birthday party for Elmo on Feb. 14. A special visit from Walkaround Elmo celebrates the popular character’s big day. Advance reservations are required; meet and greet sessions are scheduled hourly from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Presentations include a story and a craft. And best of all, it’s free. For reservations, call (909) 599-4558. firstname.lastname@example.org (818)713-3662160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! Need a surefire way to tell your sweetheart you’re bored with the relationship? Send her flowers and chocolate this Valentine’s Day. That’s this year’s warning from the experts. The competition for romantic Valentine’s Day gifts has become heated in recent years, raising the stakes in the game of love.
A highly-oranised gang of roaming copper bandits has stolen one thousand metres of high grade Eircom phone lines.More than €10,000 of cabling has been stolen in biggest raid to date.The raid, which took place at four different locations, happened last weekend.In what is one of the most serious attack ever on the communications system in Donegal, cable worth more than €10,000 was taken on the Milford to Carrigart road at four different locations. The robbery is the latest but most serious incident which has seen copper cabling stolen on at least a DOZEN different occasions over the past four years.Eircom engineers told the Tirconail Tribune that sophisticated cutting equipment would have taken hours to cut down the cabling.In one instance close to Cranford some 500 metres was taken: further down the road 250 metres were cut out and a stay across the road to stabilise the system was also slashed to pieces in what is described as a highly dangerous operation for any passing motorists.Elsewhere near Sweeney’s Filling Station at Devlinreagh a further 100 metres was removed while close to the junction with the road into the Harry Blaney Bridge a further 150 metres was taken. Eircom officials say this is the most serious incident yet and phone subscribers are struggling in many isolated areas to keep in touch with their families.There had been a noted decline in cable theft but this returned in July with another spate of robberies.A total of 1,500 metres of cable was taken during different raids at a number of locations including, Fanad, Drumbarnett, Glenveagh, Drumkeen, Mongorry Hill and Rahan on the outskirts of Letterkenny.Only a year earlier the copper bandits struck three times in four daysin the community in Fanad.While it is claimed there is an active Garda operation ongoing, thepublic seems not to be aware of this and the thefts continue unabated. Some now are questioning the extent of the investigation as more and more people continue to find themselves cut off for periods of time because of the thefts.COPPER BANDITS STEAL 1,000 METRES OF CABLE IN BIGGEST HEIST YET was last modified: September 5th, 2013 by StephenShare this:Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pocket (Opens in new window)Click to share on Telegram (Opens in new window)Click to share on WhatsApp (Opens in new window)Click to share on Skype (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Tags:CarrigartcopperGardaiMilfordtelephone cable stolenthieves
The ship returned immediately after the incident to Port Canaveral, on Florida’s east coast, but departed again for New York two days later and picked up a new load of passengers for a similar, shortened cruise. “We express our sincerest apologies for this regrettable event, and fully understand that this was a distressing experience for all who were on board,” Buckelow wrote in the letter. A Coast Guard spokesman declined to comment on the cruise line’s statement except to say the agency’s joint investigation with the National Transportation Safety Board wasn’t yet complete. At the time of the incident, seas were calm. The ship was on autopilot, with its captain, Andrew Proctor, away from the bridge. The company earlier said Proctor has worked for them nearly 35 years and has an “exemplary record.” Princess is one of 12 brands operated by Miami-based Carnival Corp., the world’s largest cruise operator. The Crown Princess was christened just last month before embarking on its maiden voyage to the Caribbean from its home terminal in New York’s Brooklyn borough. A similar tilt occurred in February on a ship also operated by Princess. Soon after leaving the Port of Galveston, Texas, the 2,600-passenger Grand Princess made an emergency turnaround because a passenger suffered a heart attack. The ship tipped sharply to its side, injuring 37. The cause of that incident, too, was determined to be human error.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! ORLANDO, Fla. – Human error caused a Princess Cruises oceanliner to abruptly tilt at sea last week, sending furniture and debris flying about the boat and injuring 240 passengers, a cruise line official said. Though federal investigations continue, Alan Buckelow, president of Valencia-based Princess Cruises, wrote in a letter to passengers that “the incident was due to human error and the appropriate personnel changes have been made.” No further specifics were given in the letter, which was dated Monday and posted on the company’s Web site. Company spokeswoman Julie Benson said in a telephone interview Tuesday that some crew members had been reassigned, but she declined to give further details. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREPhotos: At LA County Jail, Archbishop José H. Gomez celebrates Christmas Mass with inmates“The captain remains in command of the ship. We have the utmost confidence in him,” she said. “It was an isolated situation and I think passengers generally understand that.” The Crown Princess unexpectedly heeled to its side last week shortly after departing Port Canaveral, where it had stopped before a scheduled return to New York to complete a nine-day Caribbean cruise. The ship, carrying 3,100 passengers and 1,200 crew, tilted an estimated 16 to 18 degrees, tumbling passengers, chairs, tables and other objects, and seriously injuring at least 20 people. Those aboard described a terrifying interlude in which they were certain the entire 113,000-ton ship would tip over, and customers received a full refund for the journey. More than 90 people were taken to hospitals, two with critical wounds. By Monday, all but one had been released.
AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREFrumpy Middle-aged Mom: My realistic 2020 New Year’s resolutions. Some involve doughnuts.Longshoremen walked off the job one morning at the city’s deep-water port, and some Teamsters and Operating Engineers refused to cross the picket line at Los Angeles International Airport. But most other municipal employees ignored the demonstrations and continued to work on city business. Individual unions still decide whether to support a walkout. The Service Employees International Union is among groups that have a no-strike clause in their contract, but others can choose to honor another union’s picket line. The strike sanction would also require the Federation of Labor to attempt to mediate the union’s issues with the city in the hope of pressuring Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to reconsider the EAA’s demands for higher wages. Villaraigosa has refused the EAA’s demand for parity in wages with employees of the Department of Water and Power. In a letter sent to Maria Elena Durazo, the federation’s head, Aquino wrote: After a two-day strike last month had little impact on City Hall, the Engineers & Architects Association asked on Tuesday for the support of county labor leaders in an attempt to ensure that other unions would honor the picket line if the EAA strikes again. EAA leaders hope an official strike sanction from the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, an umbrella organization overseeing 350 unions, would reinvigorate the EAA’s campaign for higher wages and also pressure other unions to stay off the job if the EAA mounts another job action. “Next time … it will be more serious than the last time, and we probably won’t come back until we get (an agreement),” said Robert Aquino, EAA executive director. During the Aug. 22-23 strike, an estimated 1,000 to 1,500 EAA members _ including engineers, land surveyors and veterinarians _ demonstrated at venues around the city, and several thousand more of the union’s 7,400 members failed to show up for work. “It seemed you were implying that EAA members’ struggle to obtain a fair (cost-of-living increase) might not be as important as maintaining a good relationship with L.A.’s mayor. I understood you to mean that the mayor’s role in assisting noncity employees was so important that the federation might have to sacrifice the needs of my members. “To choose one union over another is like choosing to love one child more than another.” Federation spokeswoman Mary Gutierrez said her group had not received Aquino’s letter and could not comment on his request for a strike sanction. The City Council voted last month to impose a contract on the EAA that gives members no raise the first year, but subsequent increases totaling 6.25 percent _ an agreement accepted by 17,000 other city workers. By comparison, the DWP workers received a five-year contract with increases of 3.25 annually. Villaraigosa has said the EAA’s contract demands would add $17.5 million to the budget, and the city cannot afford it. Spokesman Matt Szabo said the City Council has already enacted raises for EAA members, so future work actions would be senseless. “We do not expect any future work action but the city will be prepared to protect critical services under any circumstances.” Also Tuesday, Villaraigosa directed City Administrative Officer Bill Fujioka and City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo to evaluate the lessons learned during the two-day strike in August and see how to improve response. For instance, court orders barring some critical workers from striking were not served to several hundred of those affected. email@example.com (213) 978-0390160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!
The 49th International Mathematical Olympiad, held in Madrid, Spain, in 2008. (Image: 49th IMO) Intense concentration as a participant solves her maths problem. (Image: 49th IMO)Janine ErasmusSouth Africa is hosting the 19th Pan-African Mathematics Olympiad, an annual event organised by the African Mathematical Union (AMU) that brings together the brightest minds on the continent. The event takes place in Pretoria from 19 to 26 April 2009.Entry into the prestigious competition, which is supported by the national Department of Science and Technology and organised by the South African Mathematics Foundation, is by invitation only. The event is held in both French and English, and the objective is to nurture talent and share information on teaching methods and mathematics curricula across the African continent.In 2009 there will be 13 countries taking part – Niger, Burkina Faso, Senegal, Kenya, Benin, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Algeria, Uganda, Mali, Mozambique, the Ivory Coast and the hosts, South Africa. Each team consists of a leader who is a mathematics teacher at secondary or tertiary level, and four pupils, all of whom must be younger than 20 years old on the day of the second examination paper, and must not be enrolled in any post-secondary institution.At the end of the event an international jury will award the gold, silver and bronze individual medals as well as the medals for the top three countries. There will also be special prizes and honourable mentions, and every participant will receive a certificate.Encouraging creative thinkingAccording to the Department of Science and Technology, the event will create an environment that will provide opportunities for creative thinking for mathematically inclined minds in the technological environment. The South African government, in partnership with the private sector, is actively looking to boost the country’s international competitiveness in all spheres of technology.South African has participated in the Pan-African Olympiad for a number of years. The country took top honours in 2000 – its début year of participation – as well as in 2002, 2003, 2006, 2007 and 2008, and is hoping to repeat this notable achievement in 2009 with its two teams.These are made up of some of the brightest young mathematical minds in the country. The official team comprises Arlton Gilbert (Star College, Durban), Dessi Nikolov (Eunice High School, Bloemfontein), Greg Jackson (Diocesan College, Cape Town) and Hlanganani Shibambo (Wordsworth High School, Benoni).In the unofficial team are Sean Wentzel (Westerford High School), Kira Düsterwald (Springfield Convent), Charl du Plessis (Stellenberg High School), Ashraf Moolla (Rondebosch Boys’ High School) and Rofhiwa Mauda (Mbilwi Secondary School). With the exception of Mbilwi School in Sibasa, Limpopo province, all pupils in the unofficial team come from schools in Cape Town.In 2008 Thomas Weighill of Paarl Boys’ High School was the top participant overall, and Dessi Nikolov of Eunice High School in Bloemfontein came third, and was also the top girl.The country has fared less spectacularly in the international version of the event, coming in 44th in 2008 and 68th in 2007. South Africa has participated in the International Mathematical Olympiad since 1992 and its best performance came in 2000 when it took 27th place.The origins of mathsEvidence exists to show that mathematics was born in Africa, and mathematicians from the continent are in agreement that Africa has every right to reclaim its place at the global forefront of the discipline.A notched calendar stick over 35 000 years old, discovered recently in the Border cave in the Lebombo mountains in the eastern part of the Southern Africa, is the oldest mathematical artefact known. The stick, known as the Lebombo bone, is a tally stick – a tool on which cuts were made to keep a count or a score – with 29 distinct notches that were deliberately cut into a baboon’s fibula. The ancient artefact resembles the calendar sticks still used by Bushmen in Namibia.The written form of the science also originated in Africa, when the pyramid-builders of ancient Egypt used papyrus to notate their calculations and formulae around 5 000 years ago. And 2 000 years ago in the great Egyptian city of Alexandria, mathematics developed fully into a rigorous axiomatic subject, notably through the efforts of great scholars such as Ptolemy and the Greek mathematician Euclid.Developing maths in AfricaThe African Mathematical Union is the continent’s equivalent of the International Mathematical Union, and is dedicated to the development of mathematics in Africa. Founded in 1976 at the first Pan-African Conference of Mathematicians held in Rabat, Morocco, the AMU was presided over by renowned Cameroonian mathematician and politician Henri Hogbe Nlend until 1986.The AMU’s second president was Nigerian academic Aderemi Kuku who at the time was head of the Department of Mathematics at Ibadan University. The Union set up four commissions in 1986 – the Commission on the History of Mathematics in Africa; the Commission on Women in Mathematics in Africa; the Commission Mathematics Education; and the Commission on Mathematics Olympiad.The third Pan-African Congress of Mathematicians was held in 1991 in Nairobi, Kenya, where Kuku was re-elected and served another presidential term of office. At the fourth congress held in 1995 in Ifrane, Morocco, Ahmed Kerkour, president of the Moroccan Mathematical Society and also of the Al Akhawayn University, was elected AMU president.During the same year the newly democratic South Africa joined the AMU, and the 2000 congress was held in Cape Town. Here South Africa participated for the first time in the Pan-African Mathematics Olympiad.Professor Jan Persens of the University of the Western Cape, South Africa, took over the presidency of the AMU from Kerkour in 2000.Since 1978 the AMU has published the journal Afrika Matematika.Do you have queries or comments about this article? Contact Janine Erasmus at firstname.lastname@example.org.Related articlesTeam SA to debate at model UN Education in South AfricaUseful linksAfrican Mathematical UnionSouth African Mathematics FoundationDepartment of Science and TechnologySouth African Agency for Science and Technology AdvancementAfrika MatematicaMathematicians of the African Diaspora49th International Mathematical Olympiad (Spain)International Mathematical Olympiad
21 February 2014 South Africa’s Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) has been a success story which has benefited more than 3.5-million people since it was introduced in 2004, President Jacob Zuma said in Cape Town on Thursday. Replying to the debate on the State of the Nation address in Parliament, Zuma dismissed the criticism of some members of the opposition, who had said that the EPWP was not a solution to unemployment in South Africa. Zuma said the formal economy could not absorb all work seekers, adding: “The fact is this innovation has made a massive impact in the lives of the poor.” Working for Water and similar programes that set people working to tackle waste and fire hazards and support the country’s wetlands, together with the Environmental Youth Services Programme, had created about 750 000 work opportunities and more than 200 000 full-time equivalent jobs since 2009. More than half of the beneficiaries of these programmes were young people, Zuma said, noting that the majority of South Africa’s unemployed were reportedly between the ages of and 24 and 30. Meanwhile, Zuma said that social grants remained the most effective poverty alleviation tool in addressing the legacy of apartheid. More than 16-million people in South Africa are beneficiaries of social grants. For more than 22% of households in the country, social grants are the main source of income. “It must also be noted that the majority of beneficiaries of social grants, 11-million specifically, are vulnerable children,” Zuma said. “The rest of the beneficiaries are older persons receiving the old age pension, persons with disability, military veterans and other vulnerable persons.” Source: SAnews.gov.za
CCH Tax Day ReportTaxpayers that use tangible real or personal property in a business need to understand the tax rules relating to the distinction between a repair and capital expenditures and other depreciable assets that are purchased or produced. Wolters Kluwer has produced a Tax Briefing that covers recent developments relating to repair, capitalization, and depreciation as embodied in the final “tangible property regulations,” also known as the “repair regulations.” The briefing also details changes made to depreciation provisions by the Protecting America from Path Hikes (PATH) Act of 2015 (P.L. 114-113 ). Many of the changes first went into effect in 2016 and will need to be considered when preparing 2016 returns.The new briefing, “2016 Repair/Capitalization/Depreciation Filing Update,” is now available and can be found here.
Vanishing dominance: India appears more vulnerable than it has in a decadeNo matter what time of the year, in Indian cricket it is always silly season. The past three months have gone by in a blur of bruises, and pessimism hangs in the air like Kolkata’s grey winter fog.A collapse,Vanishing dominance: India appears more vulnerable than it has in a decadeNo matter what time of the year, in Indian cricket it is always silly season. The past three months have gone by in a blur of bruises, and pessimism hangs in the air like Kolkata’s grey winter fog.A collapse in batting form led to failures in four one-day tournaments. A series defeat to Australia brought the lunatics out of the asylum. The still-suspended elections left the BCCI without the pretence of credibility or care. And as India creaked, an inexperienced South African team dug its heels and nails in.When Team India catches this kind of flu, everyone who whirls around in its force field breaks into a cold sweat. Recently, a prominent agent was heard exclaiming on television, “This is not the box office, the Indian team cannot have mood swings.”Oh, but they can and they do and they have. Whichever way you like your coffee-latte, frappe or decaf-now is a good time to smell it.Never mind what has happened on foreign fields in the short game,the real tsunami is probably still around the corner. In the last 10 Tests played at home (before the Kolkata Test against South Africa) India have won only three. In the last eight home Tests, India has failed to bowl out the opposition twice five times and the visitors have crossed 350 on six occasions.Statistics up to the India vs South Africa, Kanpur TestFortress India-that mighty bastion of slow pitches that turn more viciously than roads winding up the Himalayas, unfathomable passion and roaring crowds-while not on the verge of collapse is certainly looking more vulnerable than it has in more than a decade.Captain Sourav Ganguly believes this home-turf hesitancy is because his team has not played much in India recently-only four Tests in 12 months between October 2002 and November 2003. But 2004-5 will feature no less than nine Tests and by the time the Pakistanis leave in April, we will all have our answer.As victories have dried up, the first round of finger-pointing has begun and revolved around the wickets prepared. The ruckus around a Test match surface has gone from the occasional affliction to full-blown epidemic.Predictions and speculation are followed by much prodding of soil, inspection with keys and muttered disapproval. The tracks used have turned into punching bags either for frustrated bowlers or befuddled batsmen with talk of skill taking second place.advertisementFormer India player L. Sivaramakrishnan says an Indian obsession has now in fact become a weapon for the visitors. “Overseas teams have caught onto the hype and go on about how terrible the wickets are.We then expect our spinners to perform miracles.”In the groove: The South Africans celebrate a dismissal in the Kolkata TestIndia-A coach Sandeep Patil feels the wickets of the past 24 months (after 10 tracks were relaid in 2002) are no different from those that teams played on in the 1980s. “We have always had flat and placid wickets until the ’90s when we doctored them under Ajit Wadekar. The team has had a bad run with the bat but you cannot try and create sympathy by talking about the wickets,” says Patil. The draws of the ’80s turned into a huge spike in performance in the decade that followed (see box), but accused of conspiring to trip visiting teams, he believes there is too much confusion. “We have no idea which way to go,” says Wadekar. “We want faster wickets in domestic cricket so our batsmen can play better overseas, but we want spinning wickets in Tests.” Instead of producing morechal-lenging surfaces the relaid tracks have stolen Indian tracks of their life and bounce. Exhausted by the talk, Sanjay Manjrekar recently wrote that as a policy the Indian team should make only minimal reference to the wickets before matches. “No one made a big deal about how there were cracks in Brisbane recently while the Aussies went on about Bangalore,” says Wadekar.Leg spinner Anil Kumble, whose career straddles two decades, has seen wickets change since the time hemade his debut in 1990-and not just in India. Globally he believes pitches are now weighed in the batsmen’s favour. India’s sluggish performances at home are also part of a worldwide trend of more teams travelling better than before. “What you see now in world cricket is the competitiveness and the drive to succeed outside your own comfort zones,” says former South African player and convener of selectors Omar Henry. India’s success in the ’90s raised expectations to a point where the average fan believes that a home win is a foregone conclusion. But the growing number of one-day tournaments in the past decade has seen frequent visits by overseas teams. That familiarity has bred adaptability and a change in mindset. But a home series continue to be seen through the filter of nostalgia rather than altered reality. No longer do teams come to India as timid travellers.Kolkata centurion Jacques Kallis says, “Coming to India means playing in front of large crowds, being part of the passion that the game thrives on here. We don’t get to play in front of such large crowds at home.” So there go the invisible members of the Indian team: heat, dust and Delhi belly.Great expectations: (From left) Harbhajan Singh, Irfan Pathan and Anil KumbleWadekar remembers England coach Keith Fletcher spying on the touring Indians in South Africa in 1992 before England’s tour of India and declaring that his team had nothing to fear. England lost 3-0. Rather than such hubris, teams touring India now take special pains. The South Africans have spent a week at their board’s high performance centre in Pretoria where they played on wickets that had been left to dry for a week, spent time in heat rooms, and woke at 4.30 a.m. to get their body clocks accustomed to the time difference in India-measures that would have been deemed to be a bit too much 10 years ago.Apart from local point men, ice vests, Sun Tzu and mental disintegration, the Aussies have the most reliable method-sending out regular developmental and A-teams to India.For teams with less potent bowling, the prevention of defeat is seen as a victory in itself. Sivaramakrishnan says that the clean-out betweenWorld Cups makes rebuilding a priority for many teams. Only the Australians, world champs two times running, who have met India five times in six years, play with menace and intent. As batsmen have learnt, bowling tactics have changed too. “Teams set different fields to our batsmen here, they bowl to contain and frustrate and go out to attack. They see it as their best chance of getting a result or forcing a draw,” says Kumble. England bowled wide of Sachin Tendulkar’s leg stump and South Africa’s batsmen have batted with excruciating slowness, scoring at 2.6 per over in three innings. Nasser Hussain remains unapologetic about his leg theory against Tendulkar and South African coach Ray Jennings took the pragmatic view. “The way you play depends on the players you are surrounded by. It is all very well to say that Kallis should be scoring at 70 per cent strike rate. You can do that when you have Tendulkar batting behind you, but we had a debutant behind Kallis.”Teams are also aware that when India fails to bowl out visiting teams, the pressure on thehomeside begins to crank up. Harbhajan Singh defends his mates, “I don’t think we would be happy playing for draws. Playing this way won’t take the South Africans anywhere. You don’t become great by drawing matches.”advertisementadvertisementIt is a predicament the Indians understand: backs to the wall all season, they know that they too cannot aspire for greatness if they do not find a way to win more often.