Will history go against England again?

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If you look closely at England’s performance in Cricket  World Cups (T20s or otherwise) over the last 8-9 years, there is one pattern which is quite peculiar and which Afghanistan would be keen to see repeated. The pattern shows us that England -when they have not self-destructed their campaigns otherwise –  have consistently ensured that they either lost a match against an associate team in each edition of the World Cup or lost so many to associate teams over the last six editions that a team like Afghanistan could not have prayed to face any other full member more than England.

Let’s start in the reverse order, shall we? In the 2015 Cricket World Cup, they lost to Bangladesh. Now, I know you might call Bangladesh a nearly-full-member, but did you really expect England to lose to them? Let’s move on. In the 2014 T20 World cup, they lost a crucial match to Netherlands. In 2012 World T20, though they beat Afghanistan by 116 runs, they did lose to West Indies and Sri Lanka in the same round. England is surely a much better team that this. You Think?

In the 2011 Edition of the World Cup, though they beat teams like South Africa and West Indies and tied a thirller against India, England did go on to lose to both Ireland and Bangladesh before they were finally knocked out by Sri Lanka in the quarter-finals.

The pain hadn’t started there, with England already having lost to West Indies and Netherlands in the 2009 Edition of the T20 World Cup, just two years after they were knocked out of the Super 8s after having lost half their matches in that stage of the 2007 World Cup.

All this happened despite England having won the T20 World Cup in 2010 and, though that year might sound like an aberration, what is interesting is that England did concende one point to Ireland in that tournament as well when their match in the first round itself got washed out due to rain. Until then England had lost the opening match to West Indies.

So, what do we deduce from this data? Though I am no statistician, I can quite comfortably argue that patterns show that England either self-destructs and gets knocked out early or makes sure to hand over some points to the associates almost every World Cup. Hate me and my analysis as much as you like for this conclusion, call it irrational and driven by prejudice, but you cannot deny that England are, historically, the most favourable team – if there is such a team other than them – to lose to an associate nation in World Cups. Given that they have done really well against South Africa and lost to a highly competent West Indies in this year’s WT20 campaign, I would look at today’s match as that moment in this tournament when England continue to hand over another associate team some points.

Will England keep up playing Santa? Or will they show this year to be another aberration? Will they, or won’t they?

Edit: I started Writing this post just Before England was about to start their batting and it took me some time to get my data together and I did not get the opportunity to look at the score card until I published this post. At that time, I had to immediately come back and say that the score right now is England batting at 65/6 between 10-11 overs.

Vote Now: Who will win the Cricket T20 World Cup 2016?

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Let the Games.. Begin!

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So, after 12 matches – almost half of which affected by rain, and almost all of which nobody really cared about unless you were a Bangladesh team supporter – today is when the T20 World Cup finally begins. And the tournament is back in India, truly it’s rightful home.

Yes, it might be the third consecutive year cricket is seeing yet another World Cup – after the T20 World Cup in 2014 and the ‘real’ 50-over World Cup 2015 – and the fifth  in the last six years, but don’t let it fool you into believing it is going to be just-another-world-cup. This year, a lot is at stake and heads are about to roll depending on who wins and who loses.

The stage is already set with Australia and South Africa already having had a ruthless go at each other in their own corner away from the glare while the first stage of this tournament was already in progress. Australia will be looking to assert their domination over South Africa in World Cups once again, whereas South Africa would be aiming for their first win of any ICC World tournament and overcome the “chokers” tag they so despise. Will SA finally realize their dream of a coveted trophy or will Australia add the missing T20 feather to their cap which is already overcrowded with so many other world cup triumphs?

India have just shown their complete T20 dominance over their continent in the Asia Cup, and of Australia in Australia, and feel confident that they have their death-bowling woes finally sorted out. With their Captain Cool recently showing sparks of thunder in his ultra-short-super-fast innings in the Asia Cup, along with the top order batting being in the form of their lives, and Yuvraj Singh finally looking like he is coming back into his flamboyant best, team India are firmly set as favourites to win the high stakes tournament.

With Bangladesh having shown  what a magically improved side they have become since last year’s world cup, having beaten India last year and Sri Lanka and Pakistan this year, no team can afford to take them lightly anymore. But the pressure will still be upon them to perform up to expectations they have managed to create. England are just as dangerous as any other side though, historically, they always managed to create problems for themselves in World Cups. Will England be able to stamp their authority on the game and win the T20 World Cup a second time?

New Zealand have always been a terrific team on paper and proved their mettle by progressing to the final of last year’s World Cup, but to emulate their success in the sub-continent, in the absence of McCullum – arguably their fiercest leader till date – will be a big challenge which NZ might have a hard time overcoming.

Of the dark horses in the tournament, defending champions Sri Lanka are probably the team with the most problems in this tournament – yes, I mean more than even Pakistan. Pakistan have already had their usual share of pre-tournament problems, from the uncertainty over their participation in the tournament until quite recently, to their top players such as Afridi recently coming under fire for saying they felt more loved by the Indian audiences than their own home country – something that might hammer the final nail into the coffin carrying Pakistan’s chances at the World Cup, considering their poor showing at the Asia Cup. It is starting to feel a little bit like how their own media had vilified them at the start of last year’s World Cup after they lost to India, but then they did turn things around and came back with much better performances. So Pakistan have this much to be said about them that they are an unpredictable team which can play the most passionate game or the most lacklusture one; who can beat, and lose to, any team imaginable. It will all depend on whether the Good Pakistan or the Bad Pakistan turns up on match day. On the other hand, Sri Lanka themselves are known to upp their game in such tournaments and might turn up as far more clinical a side than we have seen them to be in recent times. It will be interesting to see if either of these teams beats expectations and manages to even progress to the next round. Will Pakistan continue to be dominated by India in the World Cups or will they be able to break the jinx? Have Sri Lanka finally dipped so low that they will no longer remain the feared opponent in world cricket as they used to be?

West Indies, have continued to have their own share of problems for decades now, but only the shortest format of the game gives them any chance to making a mark. You don’t really need eleven big-match players. A few big hits by their power-hitters and a few good wicket-taking overs – and who knows? After all, it is the only format in nearly four decades which they have managed to win a World Cup.

Afghanistan is the only team one needs to spare the comparisons. They have played well and beaten their opponents in the phase one and even much before that. It was sad they could not qualify for Asia Cup but even though no one really expects them to do very well facing the big teams, one might just want to watch them cause an upset or two by beating a regular team from their group and throwing open the nominations for the next round open to others.

Having said all that I could for the tournament, we know two things for sure. One is that the result of each match would be like flip of a coin – each team equally likely to win – but the one which does only a few things better, and faster, than the other will finally take the match. The most talented team will not necessarily win each time. And second, it is going to be a hard competition. India are definitely the team to beat, but there are hungry vultures circling overhead. Who will draw first blood?

What will happen? We will see!

What Dhoni’s 104m Six probably did to Bangladesh

Despite all the criticism by the Indian media over his form in recent times, MS Dhoni, during the Asia Cup 2016, has shown exactly why he is the world’s most dangerous cricketer, and India’s Captain Cool at the same time.

What stood out the most for me was the first sixer Dhoni hit off the bowling of Al-Amin in the supposedly penultimate (and which invariably become the last) over of India’s chase. Until that ball (ov. 12.1), Bangladesh had sneaked in a tiny toe before the door to the Trophy was about to shut on them, and based on their own recent good form and a deservedly improved level of confidence, they did believe that they could give India a shock. This was a belief that they carried for months after beating India in their previous tour to Bangladesh and it somewhat overshadowed the fact that Bangladesh were never really in control of the match, even after the untimely dismissal of Shikhar Dhawan just a few deliveries ago. Bangladesh, their spectators more than the players, were upbeat and for a moment imagined a future where their bowlers would be able to restrict the battering ram of Indian middle order within 20 runs of the target. And so they brought their best bowler of the day in the 19th over to bowl one good over and choke India.

But they forgot who they were going to bowl against. What followed can only be termed as cruel. Even if Dhoni had hit him for 5 boundaries in a row, Al-Amin and Bangladesh might still have had some fight left in them, but the power of the six showed a cruel and utter disrespect for the confidence of an emerging team and seemed to have opened the eyes of 160 million Bangladeshis to the utter domination this Indian team, and their captain in particular, has enjoyed over them in this tournament. The metaphorical door slammed shut and took the Bangladeshi toe with it. Being such a master of the game, what Dhoni’s super-hit did to Bangladesh and their fans can’t really be explained any more than this. You need to be a Bangladesh fan to be able to feel it’s impact. If I had been a Bangladesh supporter, I would have cried in my sleep. Thankfully, I slept well.

Nostalgic about Ghazals this morning

MusicIn the mornings, Stockholm’s metro usually presents a sight where most people have their headphones on, listening to music. I am usually no different. This morning, while I was travelling to work, I was listening to some ghazals by Pankaj Udhas and Jagjit Singh. It had probably been a few months since I last listened to a ghazal and therefore the music sounded sweeter than usual.

After a couple of tracks such as “Sharaab Cheez Hi Aisi Hai..” and “Aap Jinke Kareeb Hote Hain..” (both by Udhas), I started to feel possessed by the poetry – something that ardent Ghazal fans will identify with – and closed my eyes for a moment and lost myself in the crowd.

“Hosh waalon ko khabar kya, Bekhudi kya cheez hai.
Ishq keejiye phir samajhiye… Zindagi kya cheez hai.”

I opened my eyes and made that smooth, rythmic and slight sideways shake of the head which we music lovers do in appreciation of great poetry and melody, not to be confused with the headshaking to meet the beats of a faster Music.

“Un se nazaren kya mili, Roshan fizayen ho gayi.
Aaj jaana pyaar ki Jadugari kya cheez hai.”

Do you understand the feeling when I say that the next couple of lines always mesmerise me and make me smile?

“Khulti zulfon ne sikhayi, Mausamon ko shaayari,
Jhukti aankhon ne bataya, Maikashi… Kya cheez hai”

I looked at others listening to their own secret music and wondered if they ever shut their eyes and appreciate the beauty of the poetry of a song like a ghazal lover does. Being a foreigner here, I wondered if the locals ever had any idea, or were capable of ever understanding, what a Ghazal was. Did they have something within their own culture that took the place like that of Ghazals in our culture? Do they ever feel that the lyrics have reached inside them and touched their soul and changed them – for good or for bad Do they ever open their eyes and say, Wah!?

“Hum labon se keh na paaye, Un se Haal-E-Dil kabhi,
Aur woh.. samjhe nahi yeh……. Khaamoshi.. Kya cheez hai..”

Do they ever wonder if no other arrangement of a few words could ever match the beauty of what they just heard the shayar say? A bit like,

“Aise bolo ke dil ka afsaana, Dil sune aur nigah dohraaye.
Apne chaaron taraf ki yeh duniya, Saans ka shor bhi na sun paye.”

Maybe! And maybe not! I don’t know. As for myself, decades after decades, I know I can continue to say “Wah!”

Have a Happy and Pollution Free Diwali

DiwaliDiwali is here. Its that time of the year when we all get together with our families and loved ones and celebrate India’s grandest festival. I am not religious at all, neither do I really care about the story behind Diwali. The only thing I care about is that it is an occasion that brings families and loved ones together. I enjoy lighting candles and diyas, decorating our houses, buying new clothes, nice food, and the company of my favourite people.

The only thing that has stopped making sense to me, since over a decade and a half now, is people burning firecrackers. I cannot understand what point people are trying to make when they go nuts about firecrackers and cause so much polution that their fellow humans and animals can barely survive. What is it? Is it ego? Is it too much Money? Why the blatant disregard for the environment and our own health and safety?

This Diwali, spare a thought for the thousands, if not more, who already have it tough trying to breathe and how difficult it is going to become for them and everyone else, just because some people place their own amusement above the greater good of the planet.

Hope you have a nice but pollution free Diwali!!

The Curious Case of the missing Rahul Gandhi

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Rahul Gandhi has done it again, and I don’t mean just the massive self-destruction of the Congress party in the Delhi elections. On February 10th 2015, when the crocodile jaws engulfing the skull of Congress party’s fortunes finally snapped and reduced the party to dead pulp in Delhi, Rahul Gandhi did the vanishing act yet again and disappeared like a thief in the night. The news media went into a tizzy looking for a comment from him, but nobody in the entire Congress party was ready to reveal his whereabouts. Their silence was so astounding that it was scary.

Who exactly is Rahul Gandhi? Is he really as dynamic a leader as the staunch members of Congress keep projecting him to be while they shamelessly swallow their pride doing so? Is he really the great leader that India’s previous prime minister Manmohan Singh was dreaming to work under the leadership of? And was there anyone who thought it a disgrace that the former PM, while he was still the PM, virtually resigned himself into the hands of a mere nobody?

Oh, but dare you call Rahul Gandhi a nobody. He may not be as bright as Inspector Clouseau, but he definitely is the only lifeline that Congress thinks they have. The partymen sing praises of RaGa as if he were a manna from heaven, like a Lord coming back for resurrection. Just try to say anything negative for him and you see the entire Congress brass forming this huge wall of defence in front of him, protecting him from every critic and criticism, even to the extent of ridiculing their own selves and muddying their own names in the process. They will take all the blame on themselves and not a spot of mud will be allowed to touch the dear leader (Oh, do I sense a bit of North-Korean-ness in the matter?)

So, Rahul is like a specially challenged kid who hasn’t grown up. He is the kid that you hide in a backroom whenever strangers come asking questions.

There can be many reasons for Rahul Gandhi’s disappearance and his silence. Maybe, he is in hiding because everyone remembers how he was caught grinning when he stood alongside mother Gandhi who was addressing the media right after Congress’s drumming in the Lok Sabha elections last year. Maybe, he is in hiding because the speech writers in Congress have finally run out of script to prove that it was Rahul Gandhi’s victory even in defeat. I guess they knew it wouldn’t work so they decided not to damage the party anymore by even trying.

Not only are Congressmen silent on Rahul’s whereabouts, they are even silent on being silent. When questioned about Rahul, even in the most docile of manners, they appear to be deeply hurt. Not even a smile on their faces to at least lighten the moods. To a question such as “Is Rahul Gandhi in India or abroad,” there is still absolutely no attempt to answer at all. Just a sorry, troublesome, disgraceful and deeply worrying silence. It is obvious now, as if it weren’t earlier, that Rahul Gandhi is nothing but just a name. There is nothing behind the mask of the face that stupidly smiles at just the wrong time or a mouth that runs off to the detriment of the own party when left unregulated. A body that screams its own language, when exposed to the public, and betrays what the rest of the organization struggles to hide every moment – gross incompetence.

There is no doubt that the stalwarts of the Congress party – people who have dedicated their lives to the party’s work and achieved so much for it – must be silently feeling an increasing sense of anger and disappointment at having been forced to accept a political and intellectual nobody as their leader, to whom they must attribute the credit for all their achievements and who they must also dissociate from every failure of the party. In short, in the curious case of the Congress Party and Rahul Gandhi, failure has many fathers but success only one – Rahul Gandhi. And this will soon be proven again when Rahul is promoted to the top of the party from his current no. 2 position, while the rest of their cadre stand by the curb, preparing to act as human shields to protect the leader from the mocking and laughing jibes by all the other political parties across the nation.

Sadly, while the country has been independent since over half a century, its Grand Old Party is still disintegrating within the clutches of the Gandhis. And it doesn’t look like it will break free anytime soon.

A doze of Dostoyevsky for today?

notesfromundergroundThis morning I woke up feeling a little different and decided to give up mid-way what I was reading till last night – The Honorable Schoolboy by John le Carre. Instead, just before leaving for work, I quickly grabbed Dostoyevsky’s Notes for the Underground. This book has been lying on my shelf since a week and everytime I opened something else, I could hear Dostoyevsky calling out to me to read him first. I kept ignoring it long enough but this morning something changed.

So, when I finally got on the train and sat, I scrambled for a seat so as not to waste any more time and quickly took the book out of my bag. It started as follows:

“I am a sick man… I am a spiteful man. I am an unattractive man. I believe my liver is diseased. However, I know nothing at all about my disease, and do not know for certain what ails me. I don’t consult a doctor for it and never have, though I respect medicine and doctors. Besides, I am extremely superstitious, sufficiently so to respect medicine anyway. (I am well-educated enough not to be superstitious, but I am.) No, I refuse to treat it out of spite. You probably will not understand that. Well, but I understand it. Of course I can’t explain to you just whom I am annoying in this case by my spite. I am perfectly well aware that I cannot “get even” with the doctors by not consulting them. I know better than anyone that I thereby injure only myself and no one else. But still, if I don’t treat it, its is out of spite. My liver is bad, well then– let it get even worse!”

Those of you who have ever read Dostoyevsky probably know the kind of excitement one feels when embarking upon a journey where he is the guide. For those who haven’t read him, do so before you die. Everything else can wait.

A response to Rajnath Singh’s unscientific remarks

Rajnath_Singh“Rajnath Singh” is what happens when there is a disconnect between dogma and common sense. That the minister does not know science is a sorry fact, it is also indicative of the ignorance that has crept deep into the core of an organization that wishes to keep its eyes closed to reality. This post is a response to his unscientific comments made in front of news media, which can be read here. What he is basically trying to do here is merge Science with mythology by referring to pundits instead of scientists. Is it really necessary to go on ranting about stuff that you don’t really know and label Astronomy as coming from a ‘US Observatory’? I mean, where is the man really coming from? Clearly, it is an attempt to glorify his mythological beliefs, which no doubt are BJP’s main driving factor.

What Mr. Singh really doesn’t know, perhaps due to his lack of scientific education, is that it is not a ‘US observatory’ that observes and tells us when an eclipse is going to happen, it is the science of Astronomy, completely consistent across the world as well as in (surprise) India itself that ‘calculates’ (perhaps too difficult a word for him to contemplate) the occurrence of an eclipse. Concepts such as tilt of the axis of the earth, revolution of celestial bodies around the sun due to gravity and the position of the point of observer on the surface of the earth that, when put together give you the end result. But why should the minister worry about those factors when he has the neighborhood pundit by his side?

Nevermind the scientific calculations, Mr. Singh must now answer some more basic questions about the knowledge he seems to  have derived from scriptures using the high intellect of his pundits (if that is what he meant).

First: Hindu mythology also says that the earth is sitting on the back of a giant turtle (or was it a tortoise). What I want to know is, does the minister really believe that that is the case? Does he really have the courage to go so far as to appear a complete fool by accepting this joke also as a truth? Is he angry or upset that science doesn’t care about his point of view and is doing well enough to steer clear of such an embarrassing claim?

Second: Does the minister really believe that the Earth was formed 196 crore years ago? 196 crores = 1,960,000,000, i.e., 1.96 billion years old. Scientists have a unanimous agreement that the Earth is at least more than 4.5 billion years old, so his pundits, whoever they are, have got this fact wrong by at least 2.5 billion years and ended up embarrassing the minister in front of the whole nation. Too bad! And by the way, that is just the age of the Earth and we haven’t even mentioned the age of the universe, which scientists agree is more than 14.5 billion years, and which the mythology somehow totally missed. How did this disaster befall the great Hindu mythology? The minister should have opened a science textbook instead of listening to his idiot pundits.

Third: What does the minister mean when he says “Earlier, science did not accept this..”? What the hell is he talking about? Another stupid thing his pundits told him? Who in the scientific community has accepted anything of this sort from the Hindu mythology? Science is a system of making observations, developing theories and then testing these theories rigorously to find out the truth and it is science that has discovered the actual age and not his pundits. There have been many ancient cultures in the world that have put their own guesses on the age of the earth and all of them have the missed the mark. It is purely a coincidence that Hindu mythology has come up with the longest time of them all, but it is still nowhere near the correct scientific calculation.

Fourth: According to Hindu mythology, when a man dies, his wife should throw herself into the fire of his funeral and become a Sati, whereas a man has no such obligation, and we can probably guess why that is. So, does the minister think this “traditional value” should also be followed by the country? Will he suggest such a step to his loved ones? Is this a tradition that he is proud of? As a citizen, I demand an answer.

“No other country could match our knowledge” Well, it might not be true of our country today, but it certainly appears to be true that nobody in the world can match the knowledge that Mr. Singh has procured through his detailed scientific assessments of his uneducated pundits. The world is light years ahead of India in terms of science and technology, perhaps because we still want to suck up to any myth, however uninformed and unscientific, as long as it makes some of us proud of it. What he doesn’t understand is that we do not want a false sense of pride, but real measurable achievements.

For instance, Algebra is now from India? When the hell did that happen? Did he derive this also from his foolish pundits? The word algebra comes from the Arabic language (“restoration”) from the title of the book Ilm al-jabr wa’l-muḳābala by al-Khwarizmi. The roots of algebra can be traced to the ancient Babylonians. The word entered the English language during Late Middle English from either Spanish, Italian, or Medieval Latin. Algebra originally referred to a surgical procedure, and still is used in that sense in Spanish, while the mathematical meaning was a later development. If you need to read more about it, go to wikipedia. So, not only does he want to inflate his sense of mythological pride, he even wants to steal from scientific achievements of other cultures.

At this stage, rather than going on attacking the minister, I would pardon him a break and make one point very clear. Progress on scientific fronts has happened throughout the course of history. It is in accordance with that that various theories and concepts came about in different ages. So, yes, there will always be some concepts that you can attribute as having originated in one country or developed and refined in another. But, it doesn’t by any means imply that people in India discovered everything scientific and that was the end of progress of all areas of knowledge across the world.

The theory of relativity was not discovered in India. Neither did the theory of gravitation, electricity, nuclear physics, the periodic table of elements, evolution. Countries such as Japan have mastered fantastic technologies such as magnetically levitated trains, while we still are unable to figure out why our trains keep running off tracks every now and then.

What the minister has forgotten, or perhaps failed to understand, is that even the scientific achievements of India from centuries in the past did not come from pundits and that was not even mythology being practiced. That was science itself. And any person, whichever age they lived in, who developed any scientific theory was a scientist and not a pundit. And there is a huge difference between the two. Of course, a believer in mythology can still be a scientist if they follow the scientific method to draw conclusions, but the results of their method are by no means mythological in nature. Yes, it was someone living in India who invented the concept of Zero, but did he say it was thanks to mythology that he found out about Zero or was it because he used his intelligence just like many others have done all across the world to come up with their own discoveries in mathematics and the various branches of science.

The minister also fails to realize that our country was for long a source of inspiration to many other upcoming nations and do you know what for? We were the first nation in the world that had in its constitution the duty of each citizen to “build scientific temper”. But, perhaps the unscientific minister merely confused temper with temple, which is why he is part of an organization that has its origins in mythology and seems to be more concerned with where the next temple could be built.

“When knowledge is cut-off from traditional values, it becomes disastrous.” Does this sentence make any sense at all? Does he mean to say that what is wrong with the world is lack of touching of feet? Really? He thinks science tells one to stop touching our parents’ feet? Which scientific book is he referring to? Traditional values have nothing to do with knowledge.

“Civilizations which get cut-off from their traditions and values do not survive for long.” Again, what is he talking about? Which civilizations is he getting his knowledge from?

“..highly-educated youth involved in terror activities..” Oh? Now now, isn’t he talking about the ill effects of religion itself?

Now, why criticize the man so ruthlessly when there are many more like him in the country? Because he is the Home Minister. He is in charge of the country in a very special way and I, as a citizen, am obviously quite concerned with what he thinks about science and technology. I really want to know if the Home Minister of India really believes the Earth is sitting on the back of a giant turtle. I really need to know which direction this man and his party are planning to take the country towards: a progressive development of science and technology or a systematic rusting of the scientific capability and regression of the nation?

We have a right to know.

 

Edit 1: Added link to TOI report on what Rajnath Singh exactly said and expanded the intro paragraph a bit.

A writer’s biggest struggle

Sometimes I sit in front of my computer, fingers hovering and sort of shadow typing only millimeters above the keyboard as if a long sentence is on its way the very next instance. Instead, what happens is a long – very long – dry spell where the ideas that were just flooding my brain and about to flow out have just vanished into oblivion. Seconds turn into painfully long minutes which test my patience and I tell myself that now was probably not the correct time for it. But, when this happens almost daily, when you always have ideas but never the words, it might force you to think if writing is for you or not. Or am I just lacking the discipline?

I guess, I have to keep reminding myself that writing is for everyone. How could it not be? You don’t have to be successful at it, even if you write a few sentences every now and then, even if you don’t post them, maybe it is good enough. I think, for a writer, the bigger struggle is not on the paper, but in the mind.

Isn’t it? What do you think?

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