Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Time for The Master to go?

I read today that Ponting was dropped from the team for poor performance in last five ODIs. In a very light hearted manner, in a sense trying to mock at it, I decided to share that to my wider virtual, social network. One of my friends commented,

something to be sad bout .... people are calling for sachin's odi retirement as well .... all news channels debating this ..... wats ur call on it ???

And this is not the first time I am hearing this question. This is not the first time people are discussing it.

In recent past, I have read quite a lot about Sachin, his form, the 100th century, etc. Read a lot of advices from the Whos and Whos and the Huh? Who The Hell Are Yous of Cricket. Well some (read very few) think he should go on, the majority wants him to retire.

I find it very funny and annoying at the same time. You may now begin to feel that I am biased, but let me make it very clear, though I am a big fan of his like you and the person sitting next to you, at the same time I do try to talk sensibly at times. People who know my obsession for Sachin well enough, also know that I have been very critical too.

Anyways, let me come back to what I intended to discuss - my views, my answer to if Sachin should retire.

Of Course, he should, he has to, there is no other choice. He is a human and the law of nature dictates he age and wear out. This should ideally and most probably will have a direct impact on his performance. He has to definitely retire. 

The worth of that question doesn't lie in the 'if', it does in the 'when'. So as I said earlier, majority of those who can and cannot spell Sachin Tendulkar correctly are of the opinion that he should retire now. There could be quite a few possibilities for their opinion

1. They might be hopeful of getting a chance to play for the country in his place.
2. They are relatives of an upcoming, hard working cricketer.
3. They are totally jealous.
4. They may have retired earlier and so they want to have the esteemed company of The Master.
5. They think that him continuing is not good for the team.
6. They think he is doing bad for the team.
7. They are saying just because everyone is saying - the spirit of togetherness!
8. They want him to score 100th 100 which he has not been able to for quite some time.

Of the 8 points above, I am the most concerned about 5th and 6th because all others are possible reasons whereas these two are allegations.

So for all those who want Sachin to retire now because of any reason other than the 5th and 6th point, well, Sir, I respect your opinion, you are entitled to have one, just that I disagree with yours.

I personally think that Sachin should retire when either

1. He thinks he should retire, or
2. When we are sure that he is the worst in the lot and there are 11 others who can perform better than him and also have the confidence of doing the same.

and not when you or me sit with a group of friends watching a match and coach each and every player on each and every ball via satellites using shouting in front of a TV as the starting point.

I would want each one of us including the cricket legends to answer honestly, if we are being too harsh on him maybe just because our team as a whole is taking a beating? No? Do you really think Tendulkar retiring now will change it? Aren't we expecting more than what one single person in a team of 11 is capable of? He has not been amongst the runs as much as we would have expected to be for quite some time, but then what has Sehwag done in this series? What have the "youngsters" in the form of Raina or Rohit Sharma done in the current ODI series?

Do we suddenly think that none of these three also have any talent or caliber?

Let us go a bit in recent past and then a little more. There has been an axe on the neck of other 2 men that define Indian Cricket, moreso, The Cricket, Test Cricket - Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman. We think these people should retire now too. Why? Because they did not perform as expected in Australia, India was white washed. 

This same Dravid was being seen as a HERO when he was the only one who stood tall, as always like a wall in England. I clearly remember that one image of the scorecard doing rounds everywhere on the social network that showed Dravid opening the innings for India in some test match and then going on to play even with number 11. We now want this same Dravid to retire because of not being able to perform in the very next series.

Oh Come On! Be Realistic. Don't just say a 2 digit number, their age, is reason enough to make them retire. Appreciate the experience that comes along and what it has translated into - Class!

The point I make here is that just because Sachin similarly has not been amongst the runs or let me put it bluntly, hasn't been able to score the 100th century you all are looking forward to doesn't mean he should retire now. Sachin, at present, is clearly not the "worst of the lot" and neither do we surely have 11 players who we can be confident, will perform better than if we were to give one of those 11 spots to Tendulkar. Scenario 2 thus, should rest in peace.

Let me discuss a little more about the magical figure of 100 * 100. Oh, surely you ought to be obsessed with that figure as it has that single numeral that we Indians discovered, four times out there! Also, the symmetry. That is it. There is nothing else magical about that figure. A 99 centuries is no less an achievement than if he scores another one. Besides it is stupid to add up number of centuries scored in two very different forms of cricket. If you continue adding up like this, I am sure he must have scored a 1000, 99 in international cricket, some in Ranjis, some in school, some in a hostel, some in the gully in front of the house, who knows, maybe some in book cricket? Also, add to it the centuries that he has made in the games that we were playing sitting on our couch, controlling a character with his name via a remote control.

In a nutshell, I say, the obsession with 100 centuries is stupid.

We don't need it, we just want it. More badly than anyone else. And unfortunately, he hasn't been able to deliver what we "want" and so maybe he should retire now. Yeah right!

I agree to one of the points I read in some other post, that post the world cup last year, he is playing ODIs once again, and him choosing to play some and let go of some others. Well I agree, it is not the best thing to do. But at the same time I also feel that maybe the pressure and the hype of the figure I just called 'magical' (because that is what you think of it) has indeed taken a toll on him and maybe, I say maybe he just wants to fast forward from 99 to 101. I may have sounded totally senseless, but then I think it could be, it could be the case. The reasons are best known to him and the team management though.

In the end, a request. Everybody, please leave him alone, we all know what he has done for us and the country, we all know what he is capable of, we all can accept he knows himself the best. Let him decide when he has to retire, because in any other possibility, you have no logical explanation to make him retire now, like in next 5 minutes. Why can't we appreciate that perhaps is presence helps in grooming the youngsters better?

Just because he has not been able to deliver on your expectations, doesn't mean he should go. Go Now. No.

He is talent enabled by sheer hard work topped with confidence personified in a human packaged all over with class. See him, appreciate him, forgive him and for now, leave him!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Sad demise of Indian Cricket?

We are the Champions?

The World Champions?

Also, one of the best Test Teams in the world?

Is it? Obviously Yes! We are. But is it true only for our soil?

Do we fail anywhere outside? Do we fail miserably in our 'tests' on foreign soil?

It hasn't really been the case to this extreme until the recent past.

I was very disappointed when my team, which made me and every Indian proud by lifting The World Cup last year after 28 yrs, was thrashed and could do nothing but submit in England. There is anyways some not-so-soft-corner somewhere inside me for the English, for they ruled us and did what not (according to the History Books I studied in school). And whatever happened in England last year hurt me deep inside.

I was so eagerly waiting to see my favourtie cricketer, The God of Cricket, The Sachin Tendulkar to score The Special Century right there, at The Mecca of Cricket, The Lord's. Sadly, that didn't happen. I told myself, if not first, then it will be in second innings, and likewise, if not this match, then the next. The wait just continued. In any case, I agree, it is just a number. But I still wanted it in Lord's, his first there, if it would have been.

Nonetheless, it is OK, that it did not happen. But what really bruised me was our dismal batting performance. The Batting performance of The Team with not only a strong batting lineup, but applaudable bench strength as well (possibly for the first time ever since I have started watching cricket). And to rub it in, was the constantly publicised, omnipresent fact, that my team had failed to score more than 300 even once! One man stood tall, The Wall, but all he could see from the other end, was one after the other wicket fall.

All over Facebook, Twitter, News Channels, News Papers, and Real World almost everyone was criticising almost everything about my team but honestly, I still believed that they would do better in the next innings and the next, maybe the next after next but that did not happen. This sad chapter is still lying inside me in a corner that I did not wish to visit anymore.

Sadly, I did today. What made me do that is perhaps a pessimist view of the near future when, hope-not, we fail that bad or even worse, again. Everything now seems to be exactly the same - My expectation of The Master to score The Special Century at the MCG, then if not in first innings then maybe the next, then maybe the next match, and here I stand in the present. Another batting collapse in the first innings at the SCG, where The Cricket God averaged 221 before this match (making me all the more excited in anticipation of witnessing history being written).

You ask me again, and I will again say, it is not the failure to reach that magical figure by The Sachin that is bothering me. I will be brutally honest, it is what is happening, the collapse. OK, I can accept Sehwag doing only what he has managed to do, I can accept Gambhir going through a bad phase perhaps, but it is very very hard for me to hear, see, digest the failure of The Wall and The Very Very Special Man in Australia.

How are we managing a batting collapse yet again? Bad pitch, unfavourable conditions maybe, but then how does one of the weakest Australian side in 15 years pile up runs on the scorecard, that including a century and a maiden test double hundred. It is frustrating, upsetting, disappointing to say the least.

Well of course, there are positives that even I see in this series like our Captain always does. For one, The Master looks in good touch. And then, Ashwin knows how to use the bat.

But isn't it time to seek answers to reasons for failure overseas and do something about it, rather than just keep "looking at positives" and "not being bothered about a loss or two". Of course, I believe my team is already doing that and are perhaps also trying out things but after seeing today's play there are bad visuals haunting me.

Someone like Ponting who was going through, perhaps, the worst phase of his batting career quite recently, is standing strong, playing better and better and better in every knock, while I sit and see The Wall not having reached even 100 in the 3 innings and The Laxman who has a history of giving sleepless nights to all Australians, having played a prank on them thrice, scoring a total of 5 in this series till date.

I hate myself today for even accepting that we are good, perhaps the best, only on our soil and that I accept defeat already. "Hate" because, after all I should support my country, patriotism, etc. But then, of course this is the outcome of what has happened since the England Tour. It is the heart vs. mind game, wherein my heart overruled all that my mind said during the England series. Of course, the outcome of that series has subdued my heart to an extent that it is not even contesting and standing up against what my mind is saying now.

And now for the icing on the cake (read: rubbing salt into wounds), one of my friends who is in Australia gave me an account of what he is going through - being mocked at on the streets. Not only this, he says, at times when he calls up his manager at work to say "application is down" he gets a reply saying "wall is down.. so is tendulkar" (sic).

Sigh, let me try and end this frustration and disappointment initiated chain reaction of blabbering with my Heartadramus prediction - The Heroes will Rise, it will get better, this match ends in a draw and it improves exponentially from there on.

Sorry to break it for your hearts, I am laughing at what I wrote in the last line. We are all set to lose this one.

And yes, maybe I am taking all this too seriously and making a big deal out of this, but well if you don't, I am sorry you wasted your time reading this, it wasn't for you.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Arsenal in 2011

1) Arshavin's winner against Barcelona. When Nasri cut back, the Russian caressed the ball into the bottom corner to send the Emirates into ruptures. Lately, Arshavin has been blamed for being "disinterested" by a lot of Arsenal fans. To me he has always been a player who has given you that impression but capable of moments of brilliance. Yes, the frequency of those moments of brilliance is getting lesser. But, a fully confident Arshavin still has a lot to offer to Arsenal. Wenger has said many times that he is a player who "takes a lot of risks". So obviously Arshavin is looking for more than the obvious simple pass. I hope he extends his spell.

2) WZCZ and Koscielny's coming of age. It wont be wrong to say that a certain moment between these two probably cost Arsenal the chance to get a trophy and more importantly add some belief in the squad. But, the two have gone from strength to strength since that horrible moment. If there is a feel good factor about the current Arsenal team, then Kosh and the big Pole play a huge part.

Has a commanding presence and organizes the defense
Reads the game superbly and is always there to charge the striker on one-on-ones. The most . recent one was the one against QPR in the first 10 minutes.
Handles the long-balls and set pieces with great confidence calmness.
Has exceptional shot-stopping capabilities
He is only 21 and is huge Arsenal fan

3) RVP's wonder strike against Everton and WZCZ's foot-worship of RVP.
Well RVP's strike was awesome, but it was not as if it was unexpected. More importantly it helped us another 1-0 win over a superb Everton (my 2nd favorite team) side. I think David Moyes' team has been one of the most under-rated teams considering the funds they have. Players like Rooney, Graveson (Remember him? He went to Madrid in about 2004 or '05), Lescott, Arteta, Yakubu have had to be sold. Tim Cahill (5' 8''??) has played as a lone-striker for them at times. And yet, they remain one of the most consistent teams in the most difficult league in the world. Arteta's attitude behavior ever since he came to us (towards Everton and of course in Arsenal) has been immaculate.
WZCZ has been criticized by many for "worshiping a human." But do we care for them? It was one of those wonderful "I cant thank you enough" kind of a thing from WZCZ to our captain. It represented most Arsenal fans' sentiments. And it came from someone who is arguably our 2nd most important player (Song is the other one in contention for number 2) this year.

4) Influx of Benayoun and Arteta.

Obviously the OX, BFG and Gervinho signings have been awesome.

Arteta has been immense and his contribution has been there to see. (Probably only player who has started all games apart from WZCZ this season??). But, Benayoun's commitment has been ever-so-impressive. He has never been one to sulk or complain. He scored a screamer against Olympiakos and performed consistently in the Carling cup games. When we needed ever so desperately, he came up with the winner against Villa.

Oh and why does Arteta raise both his arms before taking any set piece???
I thought it was an Everton thing, but he does it here also.

5) Getting rid of Nasri and Bendtner. I dont dislike people like Chamakh and Arshavin. Yes, they find it tough due to lack of confidence, or talent or technical ability.
But, certainly Nasri and Bendtner's comments since they left Arsenal convince me that both of them were "GOOD RIDDANCE."
Cesc's loss hurt us. But, Nasri's??? Not really. Yes, he was a technically gifted players and one that Wenger would have liked to hang on to. Yes, he had 3 or 4 good months in Arsenal. But to me, that was that. His performance in the second half of last season was above average at best.

Bendtner, again not as bad as he people think and not as good as he thinks of himself. But, only if he dint talk could I stand him.

6) Henry's return.
Wenger has said that Henry "will not tarnish his reputation" after fears from Arsenal fans that he might be embarrassed. Obviously his presence will only be beneficial to people like Walcott and Ox on and off the pitch. Arsene has known him as 17 year old and probably knows more about "Henry-the footballer" than the man himself.
Welcome back Thierry Henry! Legend!

Come on the Arsenal!!

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Carlos Tevez saga continues

John Carlin, a New York Times writer said he was “shocked” at Manchester City striker Carlos Tevez’s refusal to come onto the football pitch against Bayern Munich in their Champions league match at the Allianz Arena, Munich. Tevez has been unhappy with life in Manchester had publicly stated in the summer that he wanted to leave Manchester City to be closer to his family.
Manchester City was trailing Bayern Munich 0-2 when manager Roberto Mancini asked the Argentinian striker Carlos Tevez to warm-up to get onto the pitch around the 59th minute of the match. Tevez refused to obey the manager’s orders. “He will never play for me again.” said a disgusted Mancini in the post-match conference. “He is finished.” Tevez followed that by saying he was not in the “right frame of mind” to play.
“Footballers get paid such a ridiculous amount of money.” said British football journalist Sean Mullan. “That compounds the problem.” Tevez earns an estimated £250,000 a week.
Two days after the incident, Tevez said that there was a gap in communication and he had “refused to warm up, but not refused to play.”
“I don’t know if Tevez is right and there was a misunderstanding.” said Carlin. “I doubt it. Mancini was so angry that he seemed genuine”. Mullan said that Tevez’s refusal was a spontaneous decision and not something he planned.

After enquiry and trial, Tevez was found guilty of five serious breaches of contract. He was suspended for a fortnight and fined two weeks' wages. He was ordered to train by himself and then with the reserves. Tevez’s problems compounded in November when he left for Argentina and failed to appear at the training sessions.

Dario Weitz called the 27-year old Tevez as the “player of the people” because he “never forgot where he came from.” Weitz, who lives in Rosario, Argentina and is a fan of Boca Juniors said Tevez was “born in the slums” in the “dangerous” neighborhood of Fort Apache. “His life, like other people in Apache, should go in misery, except for football.” said Weitz.
Mullan said that the Brazilian club Corinthians had made an offer of €40 million but Manchester City wanted €56 million and €16.5 million in a first installment to release Tevez from his contract. “Corinthians wanted to wait till 2012 when they get their new television rights and hence the deal did not go through.” he said.

“Can the Corinthians pay £250,000 a week?” said Carlin. “How many teams can pay even two-thirds of his salary? He bought himself out of the market.”

“I read an article by an Argentine journalist who called Tevez his ‘own worst enemy’. His own national coach does not want him.” said Carlin, who recently co-authored with Raphael Nadal on “Rafa: My Story” and spent over two years covering football and politics in Argentina. “I sometimes feel sorry for him. He has made a mess of his life. Some players come from extreme poverty and violence in childhood. But then so do players from Africa, some of whom are so well-behaved.”

Both Carlin and Mullan wanted a salary-cap to be enforced in football but could not see it happening.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Did Serena get away?

“It is a joke” said tennis referee Charles Granville referring to the $2000 fine imposed on Serena Williams for lashing out at a chair umpire in the recently concluded US Open. Mr. Granville, father of American professional tennis player Laura Granville, said that suspending players rather than fining them would make the tennis players behave themselves on court. French newspaper journalist, Cecile Soler said that unless a player goes physical or swears at the officials, he or she should not be suspended. Soler said: “Taking the point away is the biggest thing and that was what the umpire did.”

Williams was down 30-40 in the first game of the second set against Australian Sam Stosur in the final match of the US Open. She then hit a crunching forehand and yelled “come on” before the ninth–seeded Stosur dived at the shot. Chair umpire Eva Asderaki assessed Williams a code violation and a point penalty that gave the game to Stosur. During the changeover, Williams called Asderaki a “hater”, a “loser” and “unattractive inside” saying: “you’re giving me a code violation because I expressed who I am? We’re in America, last I checked.”

Armand Diab, another tennis referee based in Chicago, said that suspension is the ideal punishment. However, he also said that suspension would not be a practical solution as that would mean incurring “lot of revenue loss” for the tournament. Diab said: “It (the fine) is not right or wrong, it’s business”. Diab then said that he had seen cases where men said a lot worse things and have got away with it.
Williams earned $900,000 for her runner-up finish in New York and $500,000 for winning the summer's Olympus US Open Series. Armand Diab described the $2000 fine as a “slap on the wrist” for Williams. Williams was on probation after she had threatened a line judge saying she was going to “shove a ball down her throat” in a semi-final match at the US Open in 2009. ITF president Francesco Ricci Bitti said “I don't think [suspending Williams] would make much sense because it would penalize the people handing out the punishment."

“What has happened in cricket has not happened in Tennis.” said Granville. Cricket, another British-originated sport, gives the ultimate authority to the on-field umpire. Cricketers are suspended if they don’t respect the officials. Granville then compared the incident to the “two-year ban on first violation” imposed on players who are tested positive for using illegal substances. Granville then likened the incident it to the time taken by players between points. “Do Nadal and Djokovic follow the 20-second rule between points? The importance of players has had a corrupting effect (on the tennis authority).”

Soler, who has been writing on Tennis for Le Figaro for 20 years, called the umpires to be “brave and make the right calls”. Diab, on the other hand, said: “I read the recent article on New York Times which said how poorly the umpires are paid at the US Open”. He said that the tennis officiating profession could be under threat.