No, “Many Indians” aren’t interested in PV Sindhu’s caste

NewsMinute’s numbers are off. Way, way off.

After the Brexit vote results came out, several news agencies (as well as the “fake” newspeople Stephen Colbert, John Oliver, Samantha Bee) focussed on the fact that people were asking google “What is the EU?” the day after voting ended. It turns out that the number of people searching “what is the EU?” was about 1000–i.e. essentially zero compared to the 35 million people who voted one way or another in the Brexit referendum.

I think something similar is happening with a recent story in India on PV Sindhu, India’s silver medallist in Badminton in the Rio Olympics. NewsMinute is running a story that google searches for PV Sindhu’s caste have spiked after she won her silver medal. This is true, and can be checked quite simply by using Google Trends. But, as in the Brexit case above, a spike means very little unless accompanied by absolute numbers.

Newsminute provides one graph on absolute numbers, showing that 150,000 people searched for PV Sindhu’s caste in June 2016. They claim that, based on the recent spike, millions of people are searching for PV Sindhu’s caste. If that number seems suspect to you–as it did me–that’s because it appears it is.


Here are my results from Google AdWords. First, the number of people who searched for “pv sindhu”, and “pv sindhu caste”:











There were about 15,000 searches a month for PV Sindhu, and 170 searches a month for her caste over the last six months. Where newsminute got their 150,000 searches from I do not know, but that number is clearly rubbish. About 1% of all searches for PV Sindhu asked for her caste. This ratio holds even with the recent–and bloody well earned–spike in interest in her, as you can see below. If we accepted the NewsMinute number of 150,000 searches for “pv sindhu caste”, it would mean, with a factor of 100 for the spike, and a factor of 100 between the two search terms, that there were 1.5 billion searches for “pv sindhu”. Bullshit. [Edit (11PM): I realised after I posted this that the 150,000 is per month, whereas the hundredfold spike may have been per day. That means that my figure of 1.5 billion may be wrong. If so, it would mean, however, that on the day of her silver-medal win, there were (150,000/30) * (100 * 100)  = 5 crore searches for PV Sindhu. Which brings me back to: ‘Bullshit’.]


Now, 1% in India is a lot of people, and NewsMinute could be forgiven for saying “many Indians” given that about 20,000 people have searched for her caste. But they have to explain why their numbers are so far off.


Never screw with a woman – Pakistani cricketer version

Some Pakistani cricketers (was it three? seven? all of them?) were accused in the English media of ‘spot-fixing’. Amidst all the speculation about whether the ODI series against [England] would happen at all, whether these people would play in that series, or play for Pakistan at all, whether they would face more action than that and so forth, there were some noises in the Pakistani administrative camp about this being not so serious a matter, or being baseless allegations.

An ex-girlfriend of Mohammed Asif has thrown a spanner in the works. She’s claimed, and handed over what she says is proof, that Asif has fixed matches (or ‘spots’ or whatever else gets fixed these days) in the past, even bargaining over better rates for his services.  She also claims that all this was known to the administration and they did nothing about it. That, to me, is damnable.

Why she has recordings of Asif haggling with some bookie over rates is perhaps something that we will never be able to answer. Just out of idle curiosity, though, I’d like to know what Asif did to this woman for her to throw a grenade at him when he’s already facing a firing squad.

The Spirit of Cricket?

The talking heads on TV were all talking about this, yesterday, as is every newspaper in circulation. A London-based football-club owner has been arrested on charges of ‘spot-fixing’ (that’s the bastard step-sibling of ‘match-fixing’, if you didn’t know). I’ll let you read the story for yourself (watch the story, more like… the whole thing’s been caught on camera), and only say the following.

I’m not particularly into patriotism, or nationalism, or sports for that matter. But when there are millions (about 1.2 million families and 17 million people, is the current estimate) of people in your country who’ve been displaced by natural disaster, your government is fighting to keep the Taliban out of the North-West, and in spite of the average income in your country being worth less than dog food, you are put up in the Marriot at London, and asked to do your best on the playing field…

… And you go ahead and take money to throw matches, you deserve to be, dare I say it, beaten up. If these allegations are proven even remotely true, of course (and I don’t see how they could not be), I’m afraid this isn’t too hard to imagine at all. Cricketers’ houses have been ransacked in Pakistan, and people beaten up, for much smaller offences.

The Vuvuzelas @ The Netherlands v. Spain

Look at the Google homepage! The Netherlands v.  Spain, y’all!

The General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowments of UAE has recently issued a (remarkably moderately worded, considering what religion it is from) fatwa saying that vuvuzelas that are loud enough to damage hearing are haraam (of course, being Islam, they can only look at it in terms of absolute good and absolute evil, but still, baby steps, I say). Even more remarkably, the fatwa only applies to vuvuzelas being sold in the UAE. Definite baby steps, wouldn’t you say?

I mention this because I have either lost my hearing at the specific frequency that these silly pieces of plastic shriek at, or the people at the football matches have just stopped blaring their lungs out. Or so I thought. Until I realised that ESPN has just learnt to insulate its broadcast stations (you can still hear the vuvuzelas faintly in the background). The way I realised this is that every other noise from the pitch is blocked out as well. You don’t hear the referee’s whistle, for example. Or even hear the fans cheering too much (booing, if the team with possession happens to be Uruguay!).

That reminded me of something Thatha was telling me the other day. Apparently, the vuvuzelas are predominantly monophonic (at a frequency of around 400 Hz, if memory serves right). A much better thing for ESPN to do would’ve been to put the audio feed through a filter that has a large negative gain at the frequency of the vuvuzelas. We’d still be able to hear the fans cheer and the referee blow his whistle. Just a thought.

In any case, Spain takes on the Netherlands. van Persie and Sneijder v. Villa and Iniesta. No contest? One hopes not.

The Octopus Cooks

If anybody else saw the Germany-Spain semi-final and is irked about how Germany simply refused to play, here’s some delicious (nudge-oh-pack) news*: That octopus that keeps predicting football match results is soon going to be sushi. Or some fried tentacle soup. In any case, get that stupid cephalopod away from the TV before somebody puts more flags in front of it!

*Of course, when I say ‘news’, I don’t really mean ‘news’, because every goddamn news channel has been deferring to the octopus and its prediction of match results as much as they have to their resident football boffins.

Sunday Afternoon’s Musings

1) I saw Spain play Paraguay yesterday. I also saw Germany destroy Argentina, but the Spain-Paraguay match was so much better. Paraguay were Rafael Nadal to Spain’s Roger Federer, if the venue was the Wimbledon final. Paraguay ran after everything, and played out of their skins. Even with my knowledge of football, I could tell that they were matching the better skill of Spain by putting their bodies on the line.

In a match whose storyline wouldn’t have been out of place in a WWE ring, including the referee’s not-so-uninfluential call to replay a penalty kick, the heroes have to be said to be Casillas and Villar, the goalkeepers of the two sides. That Villar finally let one through while Casillas kept his goal safe is only incidental. They were fantastic.

2) Speaking of Nadal and Federer, Nadal is playing Federer’s killer at Centre-court at Wimbledon later this afternoon. Somehow, I think the English crowd at Wimbledon is going to be confused as to whom they support in this match. (Has anybody else noticed how little support Nadal gets, whoever the opponent? The same’s true of Berdych, now that he’s become the Federer-killer).

3) Serena Williams thrashed Vera Zvonareva in the Ladies final at Wimbledon yesterday, in a match that lasted all of one hour. It makes you think, sometimes, whether people who say women’s tournaments shouldn’t carry the same prize money as men’s tournaments have a point… Of course, with only a little more thought, one realises that criticizing women for playing matches that last fewer hours is like berating men for not bearing children; that these things are ultimately spectator events, and that if spectators want to watch women play tennis as much as they want to watch men play tennis, there is no reason to pay the women any less.

4) Speaking of Women’s tennis, there seem to be yet more Russian tennis-players-who-wouldn’t-be-out-of-place-in-a-photoshoot / models-who-can-play-tennis. The latest one I’ve seen is called Elena Vesnina. Damn.

5) Delhi and India have added to the IGI airport a new terminal, this one claimed to be the third largest in area worldwide, with much fanfare and space for shopping and so forth. ‘Delhi’s Airport, India’s Pride’ says a newspaper headline. I don’t feel particularly overawed that a country of 1.3 billion built themselves an airport. Sure, we didn’t mess it up like we did the Bangalore airport. So? Is it chest-thump worthy that the second most populous country in the world has the fifth biggest airport? Oh, the airport is also ‘world-class’, did I mention, whatever that means.

6)  The internet connection here at home is  a BSNL limited bandwidth line, and my being from IITM, even with its LAN cuts means that I’ve managed to use up all the allotted monthly bandwidth in three days. And since there is no way to change usage plans midway through the month, my internet usage will have to be severely throttled if I don’t want the telephone bill running into five digits. Dang it.

It was 4-2!

I don’t personally have a favourite team in the current football world cup, but I do think England was hard done by  in their round of 16 match against Germany tonight.

One could argue that, for example, had the scoreline been 2-2 at halftime, the English wouldn’t have had to attack like madmen and leave their turf undefended. I [don’t, evidently. See comments.] subscribe to the shoulda-woulda-coulda school of logic, by and large, and don’t know if I accept this argument in its entirety. I do, however, think that Lampard and England were exceedingly unlucky, and that the referee for the match deserves a kick in the backside, the git.

If this doesn’t underscore the need in football for, you know, a guy on the fucking sideline with a damn walkie-talkie and a frikkin TV set, I don’t know what could.