Lets get Kevin, Monty into Indian cricket team

Tags: Opinion
Lets get Kevin, Monty into Indian cricket team
ESTEEMED COMPANY: England cricket players, who are in India pose with mayor of London, Boris Johnson (centre) at a reception in Mumbai
Boris Johnson looks like an overgrown schoolboy with a patch of hay stuck on his head. If he becomes prime minister of England, as many say he will, he will be the wittiest leader in the world. At a dinner at Taj Land’s End, with the whole English cricket team present, he talked of the collaborative efforts between Britain and India in many fields. Three gleaming Jaguars were proof of that – British pedigree, Indian owners. “And the second Test Match was a huge collaborative effort too,” the mayor of London said deadpan, “The English team played brilliantly, with the full cooperation of the Indian team.”

In cricket mad India, it was unusual to see a visiting team being ignored; but then the audience first wanted to shake hands with Boris Johnson. Once he had disappeared, the spot­light turn­ed to the cricketers. Wearing white t-shirts and black trousers, they looked relaxed, and victorious. Kevin Pietersen was the man most in demand as men and women shook his hand and asked him to pose for photographs with them, mobile phone cameras being outnumbered by iPads (why would people carry an iPad when it’s so clumsy compared with a small camera? It becomes a habit I suppose).

Also in demand was our own Monty Panesar, the other hero of the Mumbai Test (The third hero, England captain Alistair Cook was strangely ignored. Did people not recognise him?). I discovered a few things about Monty. To start with, he speaks excellent Hindi and Punjabi, although he has been born and brought up in England. After learning that I was a writer and columnist (and, therefore, ‘creative’ to quote him), he revealed to me his other secret: he wants to be an actor. “I haven’t got any professional training,” he confided to me, “Will that be a handicap?” “Quick, quick,” I wanted to say to him, “I have excellent connections in Bollywood and can get you a role there. However, to grab that chance you will have to miss the Third Test.” But honesty prevailed; I didn’t tell my patriotic fib, we exchanged emails and my plan to whisk away India’s – and Sachin Tendulkar’s – chief tormentor, was nipped in the bud.

Coming back to Boris Johnson, the man isn’t just funny, he is erudite too, having been editor of The Spectator, and the author of eight books. Amongst the many new ideas that he has introduced to make London a better city, the most visible is the bicycle. Go anywhere in London and you will see men and women, all in office gear, whizzing past on cycles, which can be rented at one place and dropped off at another. App­arently, there are dedicated lanes for them to ride in, though I only saw cyclists on roads overflowing with other traffic. Even though they all wore helmets, cycling on busy roads seemed like a dangerous adventure to me, but that didn’t faze the cyclists at all: they went, fast and furious, single-mindedly to their destinations.

Would this work in Mumbai? In smaller towns, of course, bicycles are ubiquitous, and in my younger days I remember cycling to school, college, play, friends’ houses… In fact everywhere. But it wasn’t just a case of smaller towns: those were different days too, and the motorcar wasn’t such a demanding presence. Today only if there were dedicated lanes, would I cycle for sure. But that’s a big ‘If’. Insurmountable, in fact. The only cycling that is safe in this age and in this city is on cycles in your friendly neighbourhood gym, unless of course a novice lifter drops his weights on you.

Mayors of New York and London are often held up as examples whenever there are seminars on how to improve our cities. Give our Mayors real power, hold separate elections for them and let them deal with problems of the city, unencumbered by the completely disparate problems of rural areas of the state. That’s the general sentiment.

I endorse that whole-heartedly. And in keeping with the spirit of India-British cooperation, I suggest we make Boris Johnson mayor of Mumbai. And while we are at it, let’s get Kevin Pietersen and Monty Panesar into the Indian cricket team as well.


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