Saturday, December 25, 2010

Arspective: Arsenal Vs Chelsea, Boxing day tests (Ind- SA and the Ashes)

It is that time of the year. Feast of football and feast of test match cricket. Boxing day test in MCG has been a long living tradition. (Sehwag's 195 comes to mind immediately). Unfortunately, it turned out to be in a lost cause.

sehwag's 195 at MCG

So the 4th Ashes test could not have been poised better. Going in at 1-1, it promises to be a cracker. Hugely important tests for both teams. I will not really read into the fact the momentum is with the Aussies. In the last Ashes series, there were change of fortunes. In Cardiff in the first test, England just manage to draw the test. They, then convincingly won at Lords, lost by an innings at Headingly and came back to win the final test at Oval.

So, both teams have some thinking to do before the test.

1) Do England move Bell up the order? This is a move suggested by many. If it does happen, then Trott will move down to number 6. The big question for England would be how Trott responds to the demotion. Does he respond to the situation in the Dravid kind of way? (Kolkata) or Will it affect his confidence? On his debut at Lords, he did score century batting at number 5. Looking at Bell's confidence, his scores, I would definitely move him up to 3.

2) Steven Finn? Looks like he is going to be rested and Bresnan will come in. Bresnan has been in good form. Finn went for over 5 an over in the last test. According to Ian Chappell, he has been made to hit-the-pitch. Rather than pitch the ball up and let it seam/swing. So, the lad has lost confidence.

3) Should they drop Collingwood. I would say no. If he does get dropped then Eoin Morgen will come in for him. I am inclined to sticking with Collingwood, as he is a brilliant slipper.

There is no reason for England to panic. The rest of the line-up looks ok.

1) Ponting looks fine after his injury scare. So he should play

Down, but not out. Ponting will be back for MCG

2) Australia's bowling Johnson, Siddle, Hilfenhaus, Harris and Steve Smith is a worry. I definitely dont think they will play four quicks in Melbourne. So, who do they drop? Definitely not Johnson and Harris after their 6-fors, not Siddle either (he has been very consistent this series). So, it looks like Hilfenhaus will be dropped. But, he was their most economical bowler and helped Johnson and Harris pick up those wickets by bottling one end up. Dropping Helfenhaus seems to be the easy option, but not necessarily the correct one.

3) Who will be the spinner? Steve Smith did not bowl a ball in the 3rd test at Perth. While Perth is one of the fastest pitches in the world, it does assist the spinners. Vettori's six-for against the Aussies in 2001, a period in which their dominance was at a peak, comes to mind. So, since Smith does not have the vote of confidence, and neither doesBeer. So what will be their bowling line-up? Will they play four quicks? or Play a low-on-confidence spinner?

Their batting looks reasonably settled. So, I expect Hughes, Watson, Ponting, Clarke, Hussey, Haddin to be in the line-up.

Australia have the momentum, but England, I think, have the class. I see them winning at least one of the next two tests to take home the Ashes.

Meanwhile, India take on SA in the second test at Kingsmead, Durban, One of the faster pitches in the country. 14 years ago India got blown away for 100 and 66 and lost by over 300 runs. 10 years on, a much improved performance by the tourists, but yet lost by a 174 runs.

Zak - Spearheading the attack

For India, Zaheer will come in for Unadkat. I would love to see Harbhajan sit out and make way for Ojha. If the Indian think tank is considering Singh's batting skills then definitely is not the right way to go. We struggled to pick 4 wickets in the last test. Picking 20 looks a far way off. Batting, it is obvious that they should have never played Raina in the first place. By doing so,
a) It probably cost us the test. Some support for Sachin in the second innings and who knows what might have happened.
b) If he continues to play tests, Raina the ODI and T20 player will lose confidence, just like he did 4 years ago and with the world cup coming up, this is a move fraught with (double) danger.

Rest of the batting looks fine for me. Pujara in for Raina is a straight and simple swap. Indeed, one that could/should have been avoided by having Pujara play in the first test.

India have their task cut out. I expect our batting to fair much better this time. Bowling is a big worry. We ahve seen them bounce back in the past. So I do think they can bounce back

Arsenal welcome(or do they) Chelsea. This has got to be it for them. If ever there was a time to play Chelsea, this was it. They are low on confidence, short of victories,a perfect time for us to start winning the 'big games'. Fabregas, RVP, Diaby are back. Bendtner will return to the time as a 'father'.

One of the comments on the Dane I read:
Nick has become a father in recent days at least proves he’s not shooting blanks off the pitch

Unfortunately, Fab(lap)ianski is back for us. So Wojicech, who was impressive against ManU will go back to the bench.

Excerpts from Pre-Chelsea Wenger's conference:

Q) team's injury status......
A) We cannot complain about the injuries right now. Compared to the recent years.
diaby, RVP, Fab, Bend are back. We play many games in Janurary (FA Cup, Carling, Premiership)

Our home form is going to be decisive (aganst Chelsea, Manu, man city and liverpool) We played these teams away.

Q) Have the current off the field problems destabilized chelsea?
A) No, any team can go through what chelsea have.

Q) Are you surprised Lost 5 games and yet we are 2 points off the top?
A) Surprised that we lost 5 games. Home form in the second part is going to be deciding.

Q) Nani says there are only two teams and Arsenal is not going to be one of them.
A) I have managed 1600 games. If Nani knows who is going to win the he must be 1600 times better than me.

Q) Baloteli dint hear of Jack Wilshere. what do you think.
A) Wilshere is going to be a great player. If he keep right attitude he will do great

Q) Is this the best time to play chelsea?
A) They have less confidence than October. To win the game will be down to us. 3 years ago we won big games and dint win small games and did not win the championship.

Q) On Lampard's return.....
A) Player I like but would not necessarily like to see him return against us.

Q) What do you think needs to change to win the 'big' games?
A) Belief, commitment and determination against the big teams.

Q) Can Thomas Vermaelen be back before the end of season?
Should be back by end of Jan.

Pretty much what we expected. Isn't there too much interesting there. It will be much more interesting to hear from him after victory over Chelsea. So we saw what Man Utd did to us. They really stifled us and did not allow us to play. We can expect that from Chelsea too. Expected line-up:

Theo on the run.......But will he play?


After the ManU game it is clear that we need the pace of Walcott up front. I think Wenger might take the punt and play the young England winger on the right. So, RVP, Bendtner and Arshavin wil be on the bench along with Djourou.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Arsenal Vs Partizan, Need for Given, S'up'erbia in Davis Cup!,

So, we did manage to beat Fulham. But it was not without a few scares. Our defense was shaky again, Flapianski flapped once but got lucky, Nasri was brilliant, and it was a typical Arsenal performance in every sense. Brilliant going forward, trying to walk into the opposition goal, but scoring only twice after a million chance defensively shaky, but just managed to scrape through.

(Thanks to Vind!)

Song was moving up the pitch a little too often. Arseblog makes a detailed analysis of how the Cameroonian has been asked by Wenger to push forward. While Song has pushed into the opposition half more often than last season, when Cesc was playing he would drop back to cover Song. In our skipper's absence, either Rosicky or Nasri would have to take up that role. Or we have to ask Song to sit back and not go up-front, which is difficult for our type of football. With Nasri's current form, it is better for us not to speak a word to him and ask him what to do. So, Wenger should probably have Rosicky sit back whenever Song bombs forward.

Looking ahead to the game tomorrow:

Koscielny has been declared fit to play and will play tomorrow.

We lose Djourou because we are a bit cautious with him. He could have played with a risk, but we did not want to take a risk.

“Emmanuel Eboue comes back into the squad; the rest will be the same against Fulham.”

On Van Persie, Wenger said

“He is getting better and better and ready to start,” he said. “He was ready to start two weeks ago if you ask him.”

It is quite a surprise (not a pleasant one) that we are in a must-win situation after seemingly cruising half way through the group stage. But then, this is Arsenal. Nothing is easy and nothing is quite so comfortable.

Asked about the defensive deficiency, Arsene said

We have the best away record in the premier league, which says that we are defensively solid

Best away record?........yes......defensively solid?.........I would say NO.

Transfer rumors, unfortunately, links us with Shay Given of Citeh. Unfortunate, because we never sign a player with who the transfer rumors link us! I really hope this one is an exception and we manage to get Given. If think I would get Given, offload Almunia and Fabianski, and let Wojicech be our number two. But then, it does not matter what I think!

In the Davis cup final, Serbia beat Francein a see-saw affair, winning 3-2. Troicki smashed a back-hand winner against Llodra to complete an amazing victory. In the first game, Monfils strolled past Tipsarevic. Serbia levelled it to 1-1 as Djokovic beat Simon comfortably. Then, France came from 2-0 down in the doubles game to beat Serbia. Going into the last day, France were clear favorites, needing to win just one game. But Djokovic won against Monfils and then in the final game Troicki beat Llodra. For a player who is ranked number 3 in the world and achieved so much in his career it was a very nice sight to see Djokovic celebrate to profusely, and also goes on to say how important Davis cup is for these players.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Arspective: Preview to Arsenal- Fulham, the Ashes 2nd test

Wow!......what a turn arround week for the gunners. We beat Villa away (ok, agreed that our home record this season has been worse than our away record) , Chelsea drop two points and then we win the Carling cup quarters and also get a favorable draw for the semis. Not trying to be cocky, but we should beat Ipswich (despite the Roy Keane factor) over two legs. More good news, as Eboue made a 'miracle' recovery. He was to be out for "four weeks" according to Wenger. While he did struggle against the teenaged left-winger of Wigan, his return is vital as he is one who is willing to play in any position (left-back, right-back, left-wing, right-wing).

.......mircaulous recovery but not quite "he-man"ual against Wigan

17-yr old Brazilian starlet Wellington Da Silva will be joining in January. We had actually signed the youngster some time back, but he has been biding his time in Brazil as he could not get his work permit in Europe until he turned 18!!

Looking ahead to the Fulham game, it is a home game. The good thing is, after our horron performances at home, there is no chance of there being any complancency in our locker room. Fabiansky (I still dont trust him :( )will start. TV is, worryingly, still injured The last time we heard anything about him, Wenger said

"We have to be patient. We know a lot medically nowadays but there are some mysteries that we do not know about. At the moment we have no rational explanation for his pain. That means there is no reason to have surgery and there is no logical explanation for his pain. We have to be patient and just hope it will go. That means rest at the moment."

So, Koscielny and Squilacci along with Clichy and Sagna complete the French back four again. Wilshere and Song in front of them. Nasri should be back after picking up a "knock". The boss went on to say:

“It is a knee problem but he should be alright"

It looks like the Frenchman will play on the left, Rosicky in the "Cesc" role and RVP on the right. The Dutchman had, fingers crosses, a good (more importantly healthy and injury-free) return against the Lactics with the Moroccan up-front.

The 2nd test gets underway at Adelaide today. The Aussies are under the kind of pressure they have never been before and the English fans must be delighted. England do look more and more favorites to retain the 'urn'. Mind you, the original urn is always held in the MCC. From wiki

"The urn is erroneously believed by some to be the trophy of the Ashes series, but it has never been formally adopted as such and Bligh always considered it to be a personal gift.[1] Replicas of the urn are often held aloft by victorious teams as a symbol of their victory in an Ashes series, but the actual urn has never been presented or displayed as a trophy in this way. Whichever side holds the Ashes, the urn normally remains in the Marylebone Cricket Club Museum at Lord's since being presented to the MCC by Bligh's widow upon his death"

England have pretty much a settled side and there should not be any changes.
Potential Weaknesses?

Complancency in the dressing room. While they are better than the Aussies at the moment, it is because of the fact that they have lost great players and have become weaker rather than England becoming stronger over the years.

Swann?? Is he over-rated?? All the English commentators go gaga over the 31-yr old Northampton man and call him the best-spinner in the world. Well, may be he is the best, but that again is due to lack of quality spinners around and not down to him alone. He enjoyed success against a weak Paki betting.....err batting line-up. He has picked up a wicket in his first over some 21 times. But, I dont think he has been tested against quality batting yet. He dint seem to have too many answers when Michael Hussey counter-attacked him at the Gabba. Lets see.....

Collingwood and Prior's lack of time in the middle. Their middle-order (as Siddle showed) could be brittle due to lack of match-practice.

Strengths are obviously, high-on-confidence, Anderson's form with the ball, Cook's form, Pieterson's form (though he made only 43 in the 1st test, he was looking in ominous touch) and Bell's form.

As for the Aussies, well they would love to win the toss and make first use of the wicket (kind of a cliche I know). Ponting loves the ground and is the highest scorer at Adelaide. Katich and Watson looked reasonably assured in the 1st test. Clarke's form will be a worry for the Aussies. Mitch Johnson is out and looks like Dougie the Bollinger will replace him. Bollinger has been one of the top bowlers in the last 2 years and his exclusion in the 1st test was surprising. So Johnson's bad form could be blessing in disguise for them. Bollinger, Doerthy, Siddle and Hilfenhaus is not going to make the English batsmen lose sleep. Wonder what happened to Jason Krezja, who picked up 8 against India on his debut at Nagpur. Wonder why Shaun Tait does not play? Tait, Bolinger, Siddle and Krejza sounds more potent to me.......

Anyway, the news is that :

Australia won the toss and elected to there you go

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Gunners collapse, Ind-NZ review. Ind-SA preview,

The week has gone from bad to worse for the gunners. I was not able to watch the game against Braga. It seems there was a stone-wall penalty not given to us and we had to play with 10 men for last 15 odd minutes as Eboue got injured and we already used our 3 subs. As I said, this week has been a horrible one. But, if you look at it from a different angle, we are in the carling and FA cup (having beaten the likes of Tottenham and Newcastle). We are two points behind the top of EPL. We are one home win away from qualification against a side which has 0 points so far in the group. No excuses for yesterdays loss, but things are not as bad as they seem. Ramsey's return to the pitch for the first time since Feb is another piece of news to make your week better if you are a gunner's fan.

Aaram sey Aaron Ramsey!

Finally, we saw some 'mission domination' in the Ind-NZ test. Looking back at the series, there was too little expectation from NZ and too much from India. People expected us to dominate the kiwis because of our No.1 status and NZ's number eight status and also because of the black caps' capitulation in Bangladesh (they call it 'Banglawash'). With our limited bowling attack, I dont think we can "dominate" an opposition on the same level as the Aussies used to in their golden days. It is our awesome batting line-up, ability to fight in difficult situations (tail-end batting and Dhoni's captaincy) that makes us the number 1 team. Except for the 1st test, 2nd innings, we performed to the expectations. Looking ahead to the tour of South Africa, most part of the team picks itself. Obviously, the major worry for us is the no. 6. I would pick Pujara or Vijay for that spot. They may not be "natural no. 6" batters, but Raina looked totaly out of sorts against the NZ fast bowling attack on docile Indian pitchesh. Very soon Chris Martins and Tim Southees will morph into Steyns and Morkels. And we will be playing on green tops in Centurion/Durban/Cape Town instead of Nagpur/Ahmedabad. I really cant see him turn the corner within 3 weeks. I think too much was being made of Dhoni's form, or the lack of it. SEVEN innings without a fifty!! Thats ridiculous. Here is a list of his scores in the last few innings before this 98:

It is not the most consistent, but for someone who bats at no. seven, I dont realy see too much wrong with that. He performs when it is needed.
He came in at 281/5, when India was up against Pakistan's 588 in one of his earlier matches. His 148 saved our asses

The much-valued away series win in England in 2007 would not have been possible without the 76* at Lords when one wicket seperated England from going one up.

And how about this 92, when he walked in at 326/6 to push our score to 469 at Mohali.

Most of his failures have come when we have been looking to up the scoring rate.

So, we have:
Sehwag, Gambhir, Dravid, Sachin, Laxman, Pujara/Vijay, Dhoni.

Bowling, is our weakness.
Zaheer has been our best overseas bowler for sometime now. Added bonus, Graeme Smith has been is bunny. The proteas skipper has struggled against Zak among the many left-handers including Hayden, Lara and Andy Flower. I am assuming he will be back for the tour to SA.

Our second seamer will be Sreesanth. The eccentric Kerela man had a good tour to SA when we went there in 2006. His five-for in
Jo'burg helped us record a famous win and earned him the MOM. The fact that he has already toured SA will come in handy.

Ishant Sharma has had a roller-coaster ride in international cricket. But, he is on the up again and was instrumental in our win in the third test. The Delhi paceman is close to his best and will be our third choice.

Between Harbhajan and Ojha, I will pick Ojha. I know that the offie was the MOS against the Kiwis, but who is the the better bowler between the two right now??.....the answer is Ojha.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Arspective : Preview to Arsenal Vs Tottenham, Ind-NZ 3rd test and the ATP world tour in London

So, India take on NZ starting tonight (for us or the US!) in Nagpur. Yes, a draw would be a "defeat" for India. The bowlers, and more importantly the curator, needs to get their act together.

Ryding High!

I think, drawn tests, like the one in Hyderabad and the recently concluded test in SL (where Gayle hit the triple) need to be looked at very seriously by the boards and the ICC. There are far too many drawn tests. Ok, those like the one in Ahmedabad are "acceptable", with some bad NZ catching costing them. Maybe the one in SL could have had a result had the weather not intervened. But, with dwindling crowds in tests, I would go as far as saying that even weather should be taken into account before scheduling a test. At the very minimum, the pitches must produce a result. In fact, I would rather see a mine-field, with the test match ending in 3 or 4 days, than a dull draw. The Nagpur pitch seems to be ok from the result point of view. Only two tests have been played here, and both have had results. Having said that, the Indian bowling is a major worry. With the ageing batting line-up, our bowlers need to start delivering now. Harbhajan's bowling is becoming as predictable as the improvement in his batting. His ability to pick wickets in test relies heavily on the pitch. Zaheer's injury means our bowling is further weakened. Considering Harbhajan's form with the bat, I would be tempted to drop Raina and play Amit Mishra instead. From NZ point of view, they dont need to do anything different. They came in here with zero expectations and thats how they need to continue. I would expect India to nick this one and take the series 1-0 (Sachin gets hits 50th century?!!??!!). Stranger things have happenned though!

The much criticized international break has finished and players are back with their respective clubs. For Arsenal, RVP is not injured, is the big news (fingers crossed!)Arshavin, Rosicky, Nasri, Sagna, Gibbs, Chamakh, Cesc were all involved and have come out unscathed. For tomorrow's game, I wont be surprised if Arshavin is given a rest. Wilshere has a late
fitness test and he will be replaced by the "impressive-against-Everton" Denilson. Vermaelen, worryingly, is still injured and there is apparently no
logical explanation behind his injuries. Reminds me of the Rosicky injury :(. We desperately need his leadership at the back.

Expected line up

Sagna, Squilacci, Djourou and Clichy
Denilson/Wilshere Song
Walcott Cesc Nasri

subs: Arshavin, RVP, Bendtner, Wilshere/Denilson, Eboue, Gibbs

Bale, obviously, will the player to watch out for and it is just as good that Sagna is up against him. The French full-back has been in really good form and says he is ready for the challenge against the Welshman. Needless to say, this is A HUGE game for us and a win would let us take a peak at the top spot, albeit for a few hrs and put the pressure on Chelsea.

The groups for the ATP world tour tournament in London are as follows:
Group A

Group B

We also have Bhupati/ Mirnyi and the Paes/Dloughy combinations in the doubles.

Here is the order of play for the first 2 days:

CENTRE COURT Start At 12:15 PM
[1] B Bryan (USA) / M Bryan (USA) vs [8] J Melzer (AUT) / P Petzschner (GER)
Not Before 2:00 PM
[4] R Soderling (SWE) vs [5] A Murray (GBR)
Start At 6:15 PM
[4] L DLouhy (CZE) / L Paes (IND) vs [6] M Fyrstenberg (POL) / M Matkowski (POL)
Not Before 8:00 PM
[2] R Federer (SUI) vs [7] D Ferrer (ESP)


CENTRE COURT Start At 12:15 PM
[3] M Bhupathi (IND) / M Mirnyi (BLR) vs [5] L Kubot (POL) / O Marach (AUT)
Not Before 2:00 PM
[3] N Djokovic (SRB) vs [6] T Berdych (CZE)
Start At 6:15 PM
[2] D Nestor (CAN) / N Zimonjic (SRB) vs [7] W Moodie (RSA) / D Norman (BEL)
Not Before 8:00 PM
[1] R Nadal (ESP) vs [8] A Roddick (USA)

Happy weekend!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Arspective: Post Everton, IND-NZ 2nd test and Roddick's into the ATP finals

We, as Arsenal fans, have complained so many times that we deserved to win and yet lost the match. That was the case against Chelsea. Against New Castle we hit the woodwork three times and had about six or seven shots on target compared to NewCastle's one when they beat us at the Grove. But, against Wolves, for once, the story was the complete opposite. We won a game which, honestly I think, we were lucky to get three points.

Against Everton, we were much better defensively. Fabianski fails to convince me still. While he, admittedly, produced a match-winning performance against Wolves, in the Everton game he was very lucky when he flapped at a deep corner and the linesman adjudged that the ball had gone out when it had actually not. He flapped, missed and the ball bounced off him before he could do anything. Denilson and Djourou had particularly good games, while Nasri, Cesc, Song, Chamakh and Wilshere just continued from where they left and did what was expected of them. Arshavin continues to perform short of expectations. I do feel, however, that a 'magic' performance from him is not far away, when he will single-handedly win a game for us. come on Arsha!

Against Everton, we performed well over-all. Sagna rifled home at the 35 minute mark after Nasri had cut-in and unleashed a fierceful left-footed shot at Tim Howard. Arshavin reacted first to the lose ball and played it to Sagna. The Everton defence were either a little slow or did not expect Sagna to shoot. By the time Sagna let go, it was too let for Everton's defence and the American keeper had no chance. Fabregas doubled the lead about three minutes into the second half, when Denilson drove upfield, played to Cesc, who had a neat interchange (not exactly a one-two) with Chamakh before he let go into the bottom corner across Tim Howard. Then the Moroccan could have put the game to bed, but somehow pulled off an 'Adeb' and missed from inside the 6-yard box. Then Cahill pulled one back for Everton, but we hung on nervily for a well-deserved, HUGE, VITAL three points which sees us go past Man Utd and within two points of Chelsea, whose shock/meek surrender to Sunderland was music to our ears. It magnified their over-dependence on Essien, in whose absence they were, yet again, ordinary.

India, in the 2nd test, have seemingly taken control after a second consecutive century from Harbhajan. He seems to be following the Irfan Pathan pattern. Unfortunately, his bowling average is increasing along with his batting average. Nevertheless, his century was crucial, given the context of the game and helped India take control of the test. While draw seems to be a highly likely outcome, India do have a chance to force home the issue. Dhoni achieved the feat of taking the max. number of catches as keeper-captain in NZ's first innings. He went past Gerry Alexander of the West Indies. He once, famously stopped
Roy Gilchrist from bowling as the Jamaican was hurling beamers in Pakistan.
Three intersting facts about him from the wiki:
1) Gilchrist is considered to be one of only four bowlers ever, to have actually hit the sightscreen after first bounce on the pitch, on the full.
2)While playing in the Lancashire League (after being banned by the West Indies Cricket), he removed a stump from the playing arena and hit an opposition batsman in the head.
3) Gilchrist deliberately overstepped the bowling mark by six metres after being taunted by Kripal Singh of India and delivered a bouncer which hit the Sikh batsman in the head and dislodged his turban.

Anyway, so Mccullum's century sees NZ about 100 runs ahead with 6 wickets in hand. India may be without Zak again on the final day, who is nursing his groin injury.

Roddick, meanwhile has qualified into the top eight of the london ATP world tour finals to be held from Nov. 21 to 28. Wimbledon finalist, Thomas Berdych and the Spaniard Devid Ferrer also join Nadal, Federer, Djokovic, Soderling and Murray who had all already qualified. This was after No.9 Verdasco lost to Mofils in the third round of the Paris open (which Soderling went on to win, beating Monfils in two sets) and Roddick beat Ernest Gulbis of Lativa.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Arsenal review-preview, Ashes preview, Dementieva and F-1 news

Arsenal left it late to round off three points against a dogged West Ham side which looked like anything but a team placed at the bottom of the league. The win keeps the gunners in sight of league leaders Chelski (5 points adrift). The gunners hardly got out of second gear in the first half. Arshavin has been the most disappointing player for us this season.Arseblog makes a detailed analysis of how Arshavin has performed this season. I dont know if he needs some Vodka before the match, but if he does not step up his game, Walcott could soon replace him from the starting line-up. Our only decent chance in the first half was when Sagna pulled away from the West Ham left back and centred a cross from a Song-thru-ball. The strike from Cesc was also good, but Rob Green pulled off a really good save to deny us. (Wasn't this the keeper whose howler against US gifted thema point in the WC) We were much better in the second half, showed a lot more urgency. Nasri rattled the crossbar with a free-kick which surprised one and all in the ground. It was a superbly disguised free-kick from him with only a two-step run-up. Green was beaten but the crossbar denied Arsenal. Then, Theo was released by another beautifully weighted ball from Nasri and his shot across the goalie hit the post and came back straight to Rob Green. We looked destined for a draw when Clichy cut in from the left and dinked a delightful ball for Song to head and send the Emirates to ruptures. It was not a typical Arsenal-performance but most importantly we got 3 vital points to keep up with the league leaders.

Wilshere, meanwhile, has signed a new contract. This was, although expected, vital for us as he and Ramsey are very much the future for us (especially considering that Cesc could leave us anytime). Against Shakhtar, looks like Cesc and Song are sidelined with injuries (minor injuries, hopefully!!). So, Wilshere will be back in place of Song. And either Diaby or Rosicky will come in for Fabregas with the posibility of Nasri taking the position of Cesc. Also, as mentioned earlier Walcott could come in place of Arshavin. The rest of the team, I would expect it to be the same.

In the lead up to the Ashes, Kevin Pieterson, following his poor form, has been, surprise surprise, targeted by many Aussies. He has not responded to them, but instead, he has come out trying to shift the attention, saying that he
empathises with Rooney, likening his own situation with the United centre forward. He refused to comment back to Ponting's comments that there was a big "question mark" over his form. Rooney's is probably a much worse situation than his, for he has been involved in sex-scandals and obviously the contract issues with Man-yoo.

Elena Dementieva has announced retirement from Tennis. She is considered to be the one who revolutionised and inspired women's tennis in Russia. Her sudden and emotional
announcement after her loss to Schiavonne in Doha surprised a lot people. She was considered to be one of the "nicest people" in the tour and the pessimist in me says that could be the reason for her not to a single Grand Slam!!

Former FIA President Max Mosley said that a title win for Fernando Alonso by less than seven points would
devalue his F1 title. He won the Korean grand prix in controversial circumstances and was "allowed" to win. Massa was leading the race, when Ferrari ordered him to allow Alonso to race past him and win the race as the Spaniard is leading the F1 charts. The Ferrari team was charged $100,000 by FIA. If you really want to hurt a team, sportsman then fines are not really the answer. The only way to hurt a team is by docking points or not allowing the offender to participate in the next match/race.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Arspective: Post Manchester City, Pre NewCastle

A good performance against City. But defensively, we were not great. We need TV back ASAP. Djourou can be a backup, but we cannot have him play week in week out. The way he went tackling into to Tevez in the opening minute of the match showed his inexperience. Koscienly should be back today against Newcastle. Signing two defenders in the transfer period (Squilacci and Koscielny) seems to have been another master stroke from Wenger. People were calling him to sign midfielders but that was not the case. The goalie situation seems to have eased a little, but I will still wait. Fabianski has been good in the last few matched. But, he still hasnt done enough to convince me (and a lot of gunners) that he is "world-class"

Wenger's attitude towards Carling cup is much different this time as compared to the previous years. We saw an almost senior team against the sp*rs and Wenger said that will be the case again. Players like Bendtner, Walcott and Koscielny, who are short of match practice will be tested against a New Castle side which beat Chelsea in the last round and look to be rejuvenated after coming back into the premiership this season.

There will be probably a couple of young faces (Lansbury and Jay Emmanuel Thomas). It was interesting listening to AW talk about Jay Emmanuel Thomas. I have never seen Wenger praise so much. He says that JET can go on to become a "great player". JET is terrific in front of the goal, "left-foot", "right-foot", power, pace, he has it all, according to AW. That is really good to hear. We do have Chamakh now, and Bendtner is a decent squad player, but JET seems to be "The Man" and the next AW product to look forward to.

Speaking of Nasri , Wenger says has "matured". Seven goals this season and counting. Nasri has been in really good form. To me, there is still a cause for concern, not with Nasri, but with our mid-field. When Cesc was injured for a few games in between our performance was not great. We drew with Sunderland (admittedly with 10 men), lost to WBA at home and then lost to Chelsea. Cesc comes back and we win Man City away and give Shakhtar a pasting at home. Coincidence?..... I hope it is.....

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Test cricket, India Vs Australia

Wow! What a Frenetic end to a fabulous test match. Australia held all the aces at lunch on day 5 if they dint already the beginning of the day. But India had the joker of the pack to turn the game on its head. Unbelievable scenes at Mohali when Ojha turned the ball to fine leg two most crucial runs he did not score in his life (they were leg byes!!) There were a paltry 15000 spectators to witness one of the best test matches in India. Nowhere near the the massive crowds drawn by IPL. Ian Chappell, for once, seems to be correct.

He said "People say India is a cricket-crazy nation. India is not a
cricket-crazy nation. They are a star-crazy nation"

Laxman, meanwhile, continues to amaze us. It is hardly surprising that in a nation that is more "star-crazy" than "cricket-crazy" that his efforts are so much undermined. He was determined and fired up, yet calm and composed except for one moment when young Ojha went for a "walk in the park". Yet another half-century under pressure, yet another gem against the Aussies, yet another battling effort with the tail. Ishant Sharma, what a turn around for him. Started the test match the worst possible manner and forced off the field. Comes back, picks up three crucial wickets and scores 31 crucial runs.

Ponting still waits for the first win on Indian soil. He injured himself in 2004 when Gilchrist led them to a series victory. In 2008, India bt Australia in a four-test series.

What a shame that this is only a two-test series. In fact, originally we were supposed to have seven ODIs and no tests before the BCCI realized that India could lose the number one position in test cricket and made it a 2-test, 3 ODI tour. The timing of the visit is also questionable. On the one hand, we have the biggest sporting event held in Indian history going on in Delhi (the common wealth games). Ad then, here you are, with the biggest test series of the modern era going on at the same time. BCCI is such an idiot! They are also an idiotic bully! They say no to UDRS and ICC has no option but to not have it. India almost paid the price with the Ishant Sharma dismissal. While the UDRS is not always correct and conclusive, there is no doubt that there are fewer incorrect decisions with the UDRS.

Enough of that. Lets enjoy the Indian victory for the moment!!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Champions League cricket

So, Chennai romped home, beating the Warriors in the Champions League T20 final game. Indeed, they have been the team to beat ever. They have been the most consistent team since the dawn the T20/IPL/CL era. The reached the final of IPL 2008, semi final on IPL 2009. winners of IPL 2010 and now CL 2010 winners. I don’t care if people call Dhoni lucky, over-optimistic, talks-too-much captain. To me, he has delivered, he has won matches, as captain of the India and as the captain of CSK. So, congrats to MSD and congrats to CSK.

Coming to the popularity of the CL T20, or the lack of it, I think it would be unfair and makes no sense to compare it with Champions League Football. The CL football has a long, rich history (started in 1955). The Champions League Final, football, is the most watched annual event, drawing more than 100 million viewers. To compare an event more than 50 years old with one that is hardly two or three years old is, as I said, wasteful.

So, what can be done to increase its popularity and make it more meaningful?

Well, for starters, we cannot have new auctions every 3 or 4 years. I am talking about IPL here. There is, as you might know, going to be a new auction window before the next IPL, which would see all the teams being re-shuffled. While, Sachin and Dhoni have stated that they want to hold on to as many players as possible, only time will tell how successful they can be. Even so, the idea of having fresh auctions every 3 years is not a great idea. One of the things that makes Champions League football and club football in general so special is the traditions of the clubs, the rivalries between clubs, the “animosity” between the fans. A player has to think a million times before he makes a switch from Real Madrid to Barcelona. Athletic Bilbao, for example, is a team that recruits only home-grown players. As I said, we do need to give it some time to create rivalries between teams. But random re-shuffling of players every other year is not going to help the cause in anyway.

Then, you have the case of one player playing for different clubs and choosing the “bigger” club in the Champions League for obvious reasons. E.g: Jacques Kallis plays for the Warriors and also for the RCB (Bangalore). In the CL he chose to play for Bangalore. (It is a different matter that he was injured and dint play in the CL) Now, that is something for organizers to look at. Surely, a player must give preference to the local team/ team of his nationality. I would not like to see a situation where Kallis is taking 3-fors and scoring fifties against his own Warriors, or Ross Taylor taking apart the Central Districts. They should only be allowed to chose the “bigger” team if their local team did not make it to the CL.

The idea of “home and away” games also seems tasty. While the Sri Lankan (Wayamba), New Zealand (Central Districts) and West Indian (Guyana) teams were outplayed by the the CSKs and the RCBs, it would be interesting to see how, e.g South Australia would would play Wayamba on a slow-low turner at Galle. Can Suresh Raina play his pick-ups and hoicks against Central Districts on a green top at Napier? I know, it will be difficult to have teams travel all over in such a short period of time. But, this is just an idea that the organizers could keep in mind and try to implement.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Arspective

Back after a long break with the Arspective.

Arsenal 4-1 Bolton

And Kevin Davies has just joined my "Most Hated Footballers List", which includes Van Bommel, the Walrus (Alladyce), Shawcross and more. We were lucky that we came out of the with no player injured by the Bolton captain. It was almost as if he was playing this game with intent of sending someone back on the stretchers. I
seriously do wish that the punk was red-carded instead of Gary Cahill. Diaby was injured by a typical 'Bolton' challenge ( I am sure the Walrus has a hand in this), and had to be subbed immediately after he came in. He has joined the RVP, Bendtner and TV in the 'injured list'

Anyway, it was a good performance by us offensively, but question marks on the defence remain. Although, a point to be noted is that we started with an almost second string backline. No Sagna, No TV, No Clichy. Koscienly scored a goal, but his defensive abilities will be under the radar after this match. Twice, his headers back to Almunia was short. Once, we were punished when the Chinese Bolton player retrieved the ball and gave it to some 'El Matador'. Fortunately, it dint really matter to us. It still remains to be seen who (Djorou, Koscielny and Squilacci) Wenger would prefer when all are fit to partner TV. Cesc's cecsy performance is something that we have got used to, so I wont waste my time ranting and raving about his awesome passing and vision. But what was heartening to see, was the way he was trying to protect us against the Brutal Assault by Bolton. Most notable ones are when Diaby was kicked in the shin by some Paul Robinson and when Koscielny was hammered on the head by a horribly late challenge from Davies. Rosicky's was another stylish performance. His (eye of the needle) pass to Arshavin from the outside of his boot in the forth minute was a thing of beauty, probably the highlight of the match. Song's was another powerful performance. As worse his hair looks now, his performance on the pitch has remained awesome (if not better). He was all over the pitch, defending, attacking and was rewarded with a goal. Talking of horrible hair and good performance, MMM comes to mind (Marouanne, Moron the Moroccan). Seriously, his hair makes him looks like one! But, we dont really care as long as he puts in good performances like today's. His link play was neat, and so was his headed goal. He looks to be a player a little limited in ability but someone who is more than willing to put in his share of hard work. Arshavin, I do feel for him. He missed a couple of sitters, was pushed in the box at least 3 or 4 times (of which one could have been a penalty), was Off-side a dozen times when he could have been clean through. The Czar could have done with a goal. Hope he scores one soon. Almunia was decent, except for one bad pass to a Bolton player that could have spelt disaster on another day. (We still need a goalie). Gibbs, Eboue, Squillacci, Wilshere put in good performances. Vela got himself on the scoresheet with a neat finish. He is a player who does confuse me a bit. There was talk of him moving on from Arsenal at the start of the season. Then he comes up with a finish like that. Hope he stays and goes the 'Fabregas Way' rather than the 'Hleb way'.

Looking ahead to Braga (our next game in the Champions League), we have Diaby out, TV out and obviously Walcott, RVP, Bendtner and RVP. At home to Braga should still be ok unless we get too far ahead of ourselves.
Likely team for tonight:
Clichy Koscielny Squilacci Sagna
Wilshere Fabregas
Rosicky Arshavin

Monday, August 30, 2010

US Open -preview

US Open Men’s Preview

Andy Murray, Scotland

• Killer double-handed back-hand. Best in the game right now
• Beat Federer and Nadal en route to winning the recently concluded ATP tournament at Montreal.
• Youngest among the quartet (Rafa, Del Po, Djokovic and himself), so there is a sense of less pressure on him. He is just about at the right age to start winning slams, he is young but has enough experience.
• In the form of his life. The way he beat Federer (in straight sets) in the Montreal Masters was astounding.
• Playing on hard-courts, that’s his favorite surface. He likes hard-courts more than grass surprisingly.
• Does not need to rely on his serve. His all-round game is not based around his service. Even if he is serving bad, he can make for it

• Never won a Grand Slam before. Came twice in the final against Federer in US Open 2008 and Aus Open 2010 and lost in straight sets
• British media, British History, expectations. The last decent British player, Tim Henman was so hyped by the media that he could not handle it. They named a ‘Henman Hill’, kept on reminding him when the last British player won a major and how he has a chance to make history. The stupid British media will not shut up and Murray will have to live with it.
• Bad first-serve percentage. Even in the win over Federer in the Montreal masters, he was serving something like 55% on his first serves.

Rafa Nadal, Spain

• Ability to grind down opponents,
• Tremendous mental strength,
• Chasing down every ball without giving up,
• Heavy top-spin from his specially designed Babalot racquet are some obvious strengths of Nadal.

• Does not like hard-courts. His technique is not as smooth as Federer and thus he exerts lot of pressure on his knees and ankles. Hard-courts can be very unforgiving on those joints making him injury-prone on this surface. This very thought (of getting injured) would mean he may not come out with his A-game.
• Reducing “lefty factor”. When he burst onto the scene, immortals like Federer did not know how to handle the heavy top-spin from the left handed-forehand onto their back-hand, especially on clay courts.
• Never won the US Open before. Has won all the other slams, including the Aus Open.

Roger Federer, Switzerland
• Been there, done it before, five times at the US Open and sixteen times otherwise
• Huge hit. He is always the crowd favorite wherever he goes. Federer’s opponents will have to live with that
• Change of style. As evident from the Montreal Masters and the Cincinnati open, Federer has started using chip n charge more often than he used to. With awesome hands at the net, he could be a handful.

• Weak back-hand. As awesome and elegant it looks, there is no doubt that his back-hand is his weakness.
• Weak back-hand means he also has a weak return of serve when compared to the other top players.
• At 29, you get a feeling that he has achieved so much that there might a sense of , dare I say, complacency and lack of hunger as compared to say a Murray or a Nadal.

Roddick, USA
• Awesome serve. Best serve in the Men’s circuit. A-Rod needs to forget about first serve percentages and go flat-out. If he goes flat-out and gets 60% first serves in, that is better than him going conservatively and getting 70 -75 % first serves.
• Home ground, home support.
• Been there done it before. Not often can you say that about A-Rod, but the US Open 2003 is the only slam he has won in his career so far.
• Reducing expectations. There were such high expectations immediately after he won the US Open 2003, that one gets the feeling it got to him. Now, no one expects him to win the US. Can he do a Goran’01?
• Over-reliance on serve. If he does not serve well, he is in hot-water.
• Conservative shot-making. Built like and ox, some of his shots are put-it-back-into-play shots. Needs to go for broke more often.
• Inexplicable losses of concentration, leading to loss of confidence. His loss to Mardy Fish at Cincinnati was unbelievable. He was up 5-2 in the second set and all-over Fish. Lost concentration and the set. Lost confidence and the match. (losing the final set 6-1)

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Win by a no-ball

Cricket in the 80s and 90s seems to be so much more interesting than what it is today......

Here is an interesting story:

"I remembered Norman Gifford's no ball which made india win madras test in 1973 !!:)

India had to struggle to get the 86 runs to win. Both Engineer and Chauhan, who opened, as Gavaskar was nursing a finger injury, were back for 11 runs. Wadekar edged Old for a knee high catch to Greig in the slips but as umpire Mamsa did not at once uphold the appeal, there was some unseemly demonstration by some of the fieldsmen when Lewis showed a firm hand. The umpire, apparently unsighted by Old cutting across in his follow-through, upheld the appeal after consulting his colleague. Thirty-two for two at stumps, India hit off the runs about half-an-hour before lunch on the next day through a no-ball delivered by Gifford. Pocock, bowling into the same end as Prasanna on the previous evening, caused a fright but hard-hitting by Durani, who slammed two timely 6's, and firm batting by Pataudi saw India home."


Here is the scorecard..............makes for an interesting reading

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The good.........the bad and..... the ugly

The good.........the bad and..... the ugly


1996 Titan cup, Hyderabad - SA post 260 odd runs. India are 160 odd for 4 and in the hunt, when Ganguly is called back by cronje after he collided with the

Big old 'Fanie'. The South Africans do run him out, but Hansie(who is disliked by many, not so much by me) calls him back.

I think this is the one. The commentary is as funny as the incident itself


In the same series, the next match, India are in trouble chasing Australia's 210. Jadeja and Sachin help India recover from 47/4 and with the score around

120, the same thing happens to Jadeja which happened to Dada in the previous match. Steve Waugh though took the bails out and Mark Taylor had no intention of

calling back Jadeja. Considering some of the much more worse stuff that the OZs do, this one was more like a trailer to a 3-hr hindi movie. This is the same

match in which Kumble and Srinath put on 60 odd runs for the 9th wicket to help India to victory.


Vettori, one of the most under rated captain and player according to me, called back Collingwood after he wandered out of his crease and Mccullum hit the

stumps down.


And that was after Collingwood refused to call back Grant Elliot after this incident. Vettori, you are awesome. Collingwood?.......hmmmm.......I wont berate
him for this but.......

5) ......the ugly

srilanka india sehwag. The Randiv incident was ugly. He landed is front foot at the place where he normally would land his back-foot. He may be a 'nice lad',

''no malice guy'. But it would take a lot of convicing to prove this one was not deliberate.

But the funny thing is that, the balls faced by him increased by 1 for
having faced the no-ball, but he does not get the runs. That, to me,
is a flaw, in the rules and something for ICC to look at.

6) .....ugly

This was one of the most ridiculous ones......Slater caught Dravid on the half-volley, with the ball clearly bouncing off the pitch. Not only does he

celebrate, he then asks Dravid to walk, and when the 3rd umpire gives him not-out, he goes on an 'oz sledging mission' with dravid.......And to top it off,

he is now a commentator and comes on air and talks bout how people should not sledge.......Anyway, Slater gets away with it, with probably 10percent 'match

fee'. And when Gambhir sticks his elbow out to Watson, he gets a one match ban..........


This one is from the famous India Australia Sydney test in Jan 2008. Watch out for 4:01 and 4:56 in this

What is ridiculous about this is that umpire asks Ponting and Ponting says its out.......and the umpire gives him out.....WHAT THE @#$%!!

8) I remember a similar incident when Graeme Hick caught Rathore in India's 96 tour of England. Darrel Hair asks Hick, he says its out and the umpire gives

him out. I cant recall an incident where the umpire asks and Indian or a Pakistani if he took the catch.

The good.........the bad and..... the ugly


1996 Titan cup, Hyderabad - SA post 260 odd runs. India are 160 odd for 4 and in the hunt, when Ganguly is called back by cronje after he collided with the

Big old 'Fanie'. The South Africans do run him out, but Hansie(who is disliked by many, not so much by me) calls him back.

I think this is the one. The commentary is as funny as the incident itself


In the same series, the next match, India are in trouble chasing Australia's 210. Jadeja and Sachin help India recover from 47/4 and with the score around

120, the same thing happens to Jadeja which happened to Dada in the previous match. Steve Waugh though took the bails out and Mark Taylor had no intention of

calling back Jadeja. Considering some of the much more worse stuff that the OZs do, this one was more like a trailer to a 3-hr hindi movie. This is the same

match in which Kumble and Srinath put on 60 odd runs for the 9th wicket to help India to victory.


Vettori, one of the most under rated captain and player according to me, called back Collingwood after he wandered out of his crease and Mccullum hit the

stumps down.


And that was after Collingwood refused to call back Grant Elliot after this incident. Vettori, you are awesome. Collingwood?.......hmmmm.......I wont berate

him for this but.......

5) ......the ugly

srilanka india sehwag. The Randiv incident was ugly. He landed is front foot at the place where he normally would land his back-foot. He may be a 'nice lad',

''no malice guy'. But it would take a lot of convicing to prove this one was not deliberate.

But the funny thing is that, the balls faced by him increased by 1 for
having faced the no-ball, but he does not get the runs. That, to me,
is a flaw, in the rules and something for ICC to look at.

6) .....ugly

This was one of the most ridiculous ones......Slater caught Dravid on the half-volley, with the ball clearly bouncing off the pitch. Not only does he

celebrate, he then asks Dravid to walk, and when the 3rd umpire gives him not-out, he goes on an 'oz sledging mission' with dravid.......And to top it off,

he is now a commentator and comes on air and talks bout how people should not sledge.......Anyway, Slater gets away with it, with probably 10percent 'match

fee'. And when Gambhir sticks his elbow out to Watson, he gets a one match ban..........


This one is from the famous India Australia Sydney test in Jan 2008. Watch out for 4:01 and 4:56 in this

What is ridiculous about this is that umpire asks Ponting and Ponting says its out.......and the umpire gives him out.....WHAT THE @#$%!!

8) I remember a similar incident when Graeme Hick caught Rathore in India's 96 tour of England. Darrel Hair asks Hick, he says its out and the umpire gives

him out. I cant recall an incident where the umpire asks and Indian or a Pakistani if he took the catch.

Friday, August 13, 2010

No no no.......please

Fabianski says he wants to be number 1. He may become the number 1 in the world but please, I cant take him at Arsenal anymore. Almunia, Manone, Scheczezezezny.....I can have have these but not that Pole. He may be a nice lad, he might be ambitious, but if he starts against Liverpool on Sunday, oh buoy.....It will leave me in an al-too-familiar position where I hate a player, want him to do badly and yet I want the team to win......which is what I used to do when Mongia was our wicket-keeper, which is what I think when Ravindra Jadeja plays right now....How awesome would it be........howler from Fabianski Liv 1-0 Ars......oh he has missed another sitter Liv 2-0 Ars......and we come back in the Pires-Henry-Bergkamp style!......or maybe a hattrick for Koscielny.........

All those players 'linked' with Arsenal have one-by-one started coming out and said they are going to stay with their respective clubs. First it was Everton defender Jagielka, then the Fulham Golie Schwarzer. It is funny how, no one linked us with Koscielny, Vermaelen last year, and they were signed. I hope Wenger is on another one of those French Pilligrimage for a 'goalie hunt' and introduces someone before Aug 31 transfer deadline.........

Meanwhile, there has been a suggestion from Martin Crowe to have a test championship on a yearly basis. I would lovvvvvve to see that. He goes on to say that there are only 2 forms of cricket in the future and bye bye to ODIs. He has even said no to split-innings ODIs, which is going to be tested in the domestic cricket in Australia. Test championship does give an added edge to the tests and incentive for more people to watch cricket. Cricket fans/organizers have to accept that test cricket cannot be taken to newer shores/countries. But for the passionate cricket-followers this would be an awesome spectacle. The 8 test playing nations will quarters, semis and then finals. Total of 7 matches. The first 4 played simultaneuosly, then the 2 semis again and then the final. We are looking at most about a month of cricket, which is really not bad.

By the way......some Toronto (ATP) results.........cant see Roddick :(

N Djokovic 6 6 - - -
V Hanescu 3 4 - - -

J Chardy 6 6 - - -
N Davydenko 3 2 - - -

R Federer 7 6 - - -
M Llodra 6 3 - - -

T Berdych 6 6 6 - -
A Dolgopolov 3 7 4 - -

D Nalbandian 4 6 6 - -
R Söderling 6 4 1 - -

A Murray 6 0 6 - -
G Monfils 2 6 3 - -

P Kohlschreiber 6 7 6 - -
Y Lu 7 5 0 - -

R Nadal 6 7 - - -
K Anderson 2 6 - -

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Football Transfers

This season the transfer market has been relatively quiet. There has almost been only name, which has been going arround in the transfer market. You know who! Our skipper FABREGAS.

Anyway, following are some transfers, which you might have missed

In: Chamakh, Koscielny
Out: Dudu, Gallas, Sol, Silvestre, Senderos, Merida

On the attacking front we've strengthened. Chamakh, with his aerial ability, strength and neat finishing is definitely a much batter player right now when compared to the low-on-confidence Eduardo. Merida's absence will not be felt as he played only a handful of games last season.

In the defense, there is definitely a net loss. Gallas, Sol and Silvestre may not be the best defenders arround. But the fact that we lost 3 of them and we bought only one instead is a cause for concern for the Arsenal fans. Djorou is coming back from a major injury, so we cant really count on him as a reliable backup.

In: Chicharito (little green bean), Smalling
Out: Foster, Tosic

Sounds like quiet transfer season for the gum-chewer and the Red Devils so far. But Chicharito has had a really good start to his Man U career. He had a good world cup and has been scoring for them in the International club-friendlies. I have never got a chance to watch Smalling. But I know that he was chased by Wenger and Fergie one time. So he must be good.


In: Kakuta, Benayoun, Ramires
Out: Ballack, Joe Cole

This is a "Net Gain" for Chelsea. I personally like Joe Cole more than Benyoun. But the English mid-fielder has had his share of problems at Chelsea (injuries, coach problems etc). But consiering that they also have Kakuta now, that makes them really strong on the wing. This Kakuta is the same guy for which there was that supposed "2 year ban" on Chelsea. I was delighted at that time. But I should have realized that it is Chelsea, and they would do anything to lift that ban. The ageing Ballack will be replaced by Ramires. Ramires is as strong as the German, and he also has the added ability to counter attack after breaking the opponents play.


In: Aurelio, Joe Cole, Jovanovic, Hodgeson
Out: Benayoun, Riera, Rafa

There is a net positive in the defence and probably a net zero in the attack for Liverpool. They also probably have a net positive in the staff, with the new coach. If I were a Liverpool supporter, I would be really concerned on the attacking front. There is too much reliance on few players. Injuries to any one of Gerrard, Torres or Cole (The last 2 being very susceptible to injuries) and pool could be in big trouble. If fit, then these 3 could be a major force.


In: Kolarov, David Silva, Yaya, Jerome Boateng,
Out: Martin Petrov

Almost in: Mario Balloteli
Almost out: Adebayor

Both the "almost"s are buffons. So there is a net zero over there. I hear that Ballotelli is almost as egoistic and greedy as the Togolese striker. So, those are not good signs for City fans as Manciini looks to sell Adebayor (Inter Milan is in the running for him. No wonder its that stupid Rafa Benitiz over there).

David Silva and Boateng looked good in the world cup. Yaya has come to Citeh on such a big prize tag, more out of his name and the club for which he played than his ability. Never heard of Kolarov before.
Despite the amount of money invested by them, there have not really been any major net gains for Manci(ty)(ni).

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Sol goes, Djorou injured, Koscielny looks good

Sol Campbell singed for the Magpies. Not the worst thing for us, though he would have been a good backup. In the new 25-man squad rule, we need to make sure that most, if not all players are fit to play through out the season. Djorou injured himself playing in one of the Emirates cup matches. That leaves us woefully short of defesive options. Koscielny looks a 'class act' according to Verminator but hell we need a couple of decent back-ups and we dont even have one. We dont want Song to drop back if either one of our centre backs donot play.

By the way, we won the Emirates Cup, drawing 1-1 with Milan and beating Celtic 3-2. Koscielny and Vermaelen looked really good, but the goal was conceded to a set piece and that too to the 'little duck' Pato. While the Lorent man and the Belgian look solid for most part, their height(or the lack of it) must be a concern for Wenger. Both are less than 6 feet and surely a beastly defender (maybe someone like Kyrgiakos who is cheap and not too intelligent) is the order of the day. Chamakh got off the mark with a nicely tucked finish and Vela also looked good, along with Arshavin. So, yet again I say....a back-up defender and a goalie is all we need.......

Dhoni lost the seventh toss in a row as India were put to field yet again on a terrible Sri Lankan summer day. Mind you, no day is good in SriLanka, with those trumpets blowing in the background. Worse than Vuvuzelas! Ishant Sharma put in a much better performance for us as he got rid of one of the Lankan openers in the first half hour. Dilshan hit and missed his way to 50 before he was run out, a sharp piece of fielding by Vijay at silly point. Between this, Raina dived in front of Laxman just as the Hyderbad man was about to gulp a sitter and grassed it. The batter was Sanga and the bowler was Mithun. On these placid Lankan tracks, losing the toss, hot first day, it is CRIMINAL to drop, and that too Sanga. Srilanka ended up on 293/4. Despite an improved bowling performace, Sri Lanka sit pretty at the end of the first day.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Galle test first day, Sunil Chetri, Arsenal and Football

The less talked about the SSC test the better. I dint really watch the opening day (due to the odd timings and poor Indian performance). But, yet again, the Lankan batsmen turned on the heat on the insipid Indian bowling. Ishant Sharma needs to get back to first-class cricket, get his old rhythm, pace and most importnantly the self-belief back. Harbhajan has to be dropped from tests. We must play Chawla or Mishra in tests and they give the ball more air and a beat of a tweak. 313/2 and SL are sitting pretty yet again. Our only hope is if we can come back early tomorrow and make some early inroads while the ball is new. Two left-handers, Sanga and some Paranvitana, plundered on some weak Indian bowling attack yet again. In the absence of Zaheer, India are struggling even more agains the lefties. In the warmup match, it was Kandamby and Upul Tharanga. Last match it was Sanga and Paranavitana again. That is 6 centuries by left-handed batsmen in 3 innings. A leg-spinner bowling in the rough (created by right-arm-over bowlers) outside the lefty's off-stump will give some chance. Admittedly, it was the first day and there would not be too much rough. But surely, it would give the lefties some thing to think about.

Sunil Chetri started the Kansas City Wizards match against Manchester United. The Hyderabad man, who is nearing 26 now, played as one of the 2 strikers for Kansas City. Was it more for a publicity thing in the Indian media or did he geniunely make into the team? I wish the answer is the latter. The American beat the Pink Devils 2-1, despite being reduced to 10 men. Jimmy Conrad (heard this name before somewhere!) got sent off for the Wizards.

Koscielny and Vermaelen look set to be at the heart of the Arsenal defence. The departure of Gallas means that the Lorent defender will partner the Belgian. If Sol Campbell signs an extension, then TV and Koscielny plus Djourou and Sol as backups would be a good central defence. There was a slight rumor of Clichy going to Madrid earlier. But that seems to be only what it was, a rumor. So Clichy backed up by Gibbs, Sagna backed up by Eboue looks good.

Song-Diaby, Fabregas-Nasri-Arshavin, with Van Persie up-front looks delicious. (Iniesta has said that Fabregas could stay for one more year with us ) Backup of Walcott, Chamakh, Rosicky (hope he regains full fitness), Denilson, Bendtner, Wilshere means that the only concern for us now is the goal keeper. I dont know what Wenger will do, but if Almunia or Flapianski are going to be the Arsenal #1, then even the most optimistic supporter of Arsenal like me would not give them a chance to win the title.

City are in for Ballotelli. Not sure they need him. They already have Adeb, Tevez, Santa Cruz, Bellamy and more. But if Real Madrid can go for Khedira, then surely City going for Ballo is not a surprise. Madrid already have Gago, Las and Mahamadou Diarra and Alonso as defensive mid field options and now it seems Maurinho is trying to get the German world-cup star in. Maurinho, I hate him! Raul and Guti are bidding farewell to as Real-MAdrid announced they are going to organize an exhibition match for these two legends. Guti is out on his way to Turkish outfit Besiktas and Raul on his way to England or Germany. Blackburn, will it be???

Friday, July 23, 2010

Bye Bye Dudu, Headingly! Galle Test, Egypt Open

Shakhtar Doentsk of Ukraine have completed $6 million of Eduardo from Arsenal. After his last season's dissapointing performance it was not suprising and probably good for Arsenal. While we could use the money to buy someone else (GOAL KEEPER PLEAAAASE!!) and good for us in the long term, I was very sad to see DUDU leave. He was only beginning to settle in to our squad and his double at Everton in early 2008 was almost getting him into the 'grove' before the horrific tackle from Martin Taylor. He came back from the injury about 15 months later but has never been the player that Wenger portrayed since the injury. Best of Luck dudu at Shakhtar!

Headingly continues to amaze. It is definitely my favorite venue now, if it was not before. Pakistan shot Australia out for 88 on the first morning. Aamer-Asi-Gul looks a deadly combination all of a sudden (probably the best in the world right now). Coming back to Headingly, I remember some amazing test matches played here.

1) In 2000, England bowled West Indies for 61 here. Andy Caddick picked up something like 4 wickets in an over to bring to an end test match within 2 days!! Only second time that this has happened in the history.

2) In 2001, England won the only test of the Ashes series chasing over 350 in the 4th innings. Butcher hit 173* after Gilchrist had declared the Australian innings to give England a sniff.

3) In 2002, on a cold morning, under overcast conditions and a juicy pitch, Dada won the toss and elected to bat. Dravid and Bangar thwarted the new ball and took India to 236/2 at the end of the first day. Dada, Sachin followed up the century from Dravid the next day and took India to 600. India then bowled out England twice to script an amazing win over England in England after 17 years

4) Now this test, which is poised precariously. Hope Aamer and co can come out tomorrow and pick up some early wickets.

Plus, Headingly is the home of Yorkshire, Leeds for which Sachin used play his county cricket. Leeds was also my favorite football club :( before it sank to the second division!!

Galle test. Murali 800, congrats. But I am not really a big fan of Murali. So lets just say best of luck to him.
Yet again, VVS Laxman was stranded and ran out of partners. India's bowling looks really weak in the absence of Zaheer. Harbhajan needs to be dropped. We need a spinner who can flight the ball. Amit Mishra, Piyussh Chawla?? They would be better than Harbhajan in test matches.

I was listening on NDTV the other day, Sharath Kamal of India won the Egypt open. Talking Table Tennis, by the way. This was following a victory in the US Open a week or so back.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Lords Test, Henry a 'Red Bull' , Mendis' burst, Fabregas' shirt drama

Pakistan made the perfect start on a Lords wicket which was flat and dry. Their decision to bowl first was due to the heavy overcast conditions. The 18-yr old Mohommad Aamer and Mohommad Asif bowled beautifully and had Katich and Watson in all sorts of trouble. Watson was eventually bowled by the Pakistani left-armer. He got the first one to move away from Watson and had the batsman fishing. Then Watson showed his arms to leave the third ball. Much to his horror, the ball came back in but was a touch high to be adjudged leg-before. The forth one was spot on and had Watson dead plumb in front of the stumps. The umpire raised his finger, but much to his embarassment the ball trickled on to the stupms. First blood Pakistan. Ponting and Katich tried to steady the ship as Australia reached 50 for 1. Ponting then hit a leg-side ball towards mid-wicket or so he thought. Young Umar plucked the ball out of thin air much to the disgust of the Aussie captain. He then elbowed Mohd. Aamir when the rookie youngster was celebrating. And guess what, the match referee called Aamir and gave him an 'unofficial warning'. That, to me, was ridiculous. Aamir was well within his right to celebrate. And if you have a look at the video, it was Pointing who stuck his elbow out to the left-armer. Racism at its best.

Clarke and Katich stitched together a really good partnership against some really tight Pakistan bowling (except for "Boom Boom" who was hit for 25 off 3 overs). Katich has been the Gambhir of Australia except that his style is much more unorthodox compared to the southpaw from Delhi. He has scored something like 9 or 10 consecutive 50s and has been Australia's most consistent batsman for the last year or so. Last ball before tea and, Asif was finally rewarded as he had Clarke in front. Two overs after the break, Asif got more rewards as Katich edged a ball that offered to come in but shaped away from the leftie. Marcus North was plumb in front two balls later but amazingly there was no appeal from the Pakistani fielders/bowlers. It dint matter. He was bowled by a beauty the next ball by a classical banana in swinger to the left hander and the score card read 180/5. Gul and Kaneria mopped up the tail as Australia were bowled out for 253.

Ajantha Medis, meanwhile, has given his selectors some serious head ache, as he picked up 6 Indian wickets inluding those of Gambhir, Sachin and Laxman. He brought back memories of 2008 when the experieced Indian batsmen were clueless against the mystery bowler. The Indian batsmen, eventually seemed to have figured him out and smashed him to pulp in the only test he played against India in India last year. The prompted the selectors to drop him from the first test. But, this performance could mean an SOS on its way to the 25-yr old carrom bowler.

Henry, meanwhile, has completed a 'multi-year' contract with New York red bulls and will face his once-rival Tottenham in his first match for the American team.

Pique and Puyol, in their wild celebrations, put a Catalan shirt on Fabregas without the knowledge/consent of the Arsenal captain. To all Arsenal fans, I will say that this is just another dirty tactic of the Barcelona think-tank and please donot hate Cesc for this. If you have alook at the video, you will see it was not his fault and he was pretty embarrassed by it. If anything, this should make our love and bond with Cesc stronger. COYG!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

From Start to Finish..

The Indian occupation of tending to thorns, harvesting them, making a throne out of them and then sitting on that ...and still smile...

Why! I always wanted to be an athlete...I wanted to feel that adrenaline rush when thousands in a stadium would cheer my name as i go on to hit the bulls I fill the hexagon shaped netted structure with a ball kicked by my I break a world record I bolt across the winning line..!!! So much i wanted to do ..
Probably a story of many youths across the streets of India..They all want to bring glory for the country that is so very impoverished for sporting recognition. What happens to these dreams? Do they get lost in the ever increasing depths of school bag ,or become indiscernible in the huge passel of achievements that this society have stamped their seal as "Must Haves”, or are lost in the stampede of life wherein saving ones life takes precedence over living it.All of these could be the reasons. But apart from the incidence of this virga,there`s one more ball of thorns that is pinching the very flesh of the sporting soul of this country.
                          Why PT Usha has to cry to get decent facilities? Why the hockey team has to call upon an uprising to have their dues? why a certain Vijender is given padma shri and his fellow is gently brushed aside ? Why M Maricom has to remind all of us of her achievements on the world stage to get a sponsorship? Why we consider only the cricket world cup as a fitting event to give our "all the best india,dikha do" messages?
                 The partisan behaviour that our athletes in India are meted out with is at best a midget in comparison with the struggles they have to undergo as they aspire to bring glory to the nation.
      It all starts from the strange stares your father and other elders would give you when you tell them that you are about to take up sports(which they till now encouraged as an hobby only offcourse!) as a career.Ofcourse cricket is the prima donna amongst the choices that parents would approve, but convincing your family that you giving up on a parchments you will receive from a university and the greenbacks from the MNC`s in lieu of the sweat, struggle and frustration that a sporting life ensures apart from the one off award sans comparable remuneration to buy yourself a new sporting kit is like scaling the Everest without a oxygen mask.
                   Still some brave souls convince their agitating (not a case if your elders were players themselves!)family folks and venture about on the dusty road towards sporting glory that has full of potholes and have lots of puncture potential pins waiting for your tyre to roll on to them. The kneejerk reaction that an athlete gets when he gets to taste the rudeness of the officials, the uncalled for dry and sarcastic comments from the fellow players makes him to come out the reverie that he so very well preserved and dreamed about in over the years.
             The rat race that an athlete goes along with is a slap on the face of those talented ones who have to give way to their feeble images or to loose out to those who are politically inundated with support. Still he finds the courage to keep the dream alive, to run along the track, to keep his gaze on the bulls eye, to keep his sword sharp. The heart breaking inefficiencies of the system are all but a part of the daily routine that he goes through.
                        Body aching from feverish practice the other day cant keep him out of his sporing arena. He knows his time will come. He loves the game. He loves to be there when the sweet clunk of his bat hitting the ball, when his opponent is found wanting on the other side of court, when he mesmerises his counterpart with his moves, when his fluidity on the field makes for the most amazing visuals ever. He likes to be appreciated. He waits for his countrymen to see him, recognize him, support him.
                   Is he talking to empty walls? Is he beating on the doors of a deserted village? Is he encroaching upon your Ac groomed dreams, is he disturbing your lovely EMI supported and luxury laden life which goes about criticizing him most of the times? Is he an alien to you or is a part of you? That’s the problem of india.We don’t make our athletes a part. We have them worshipped as heroes. We have them climb the podiums, we godify them. We strip them of all these monikers when they don’t perform. We never let them enter our realms of reality. They remain to us an enigma that is bound to entertain and then fade away. We don’t forgive them the same way as we so conveniently forgive our gaffes. We love to crucify our Christs!!
           The dearth of world class equipments, unavailability of funds, jinxed coaches who never seem to go beyond the paid vacation, lack of infrastructure and facilities (lack is an understatement here!) are some of the death knells for an athlete.
Wonder how these superhumans get hold of their instincts to tear the system apart. Being subservient doesn’t help either. Lack of players coming out in open about their grievances makes it easy for the weasels in the administration to burrow through with their sly teeth into the aspirations of sportsmen.
               After manoeuvring his way through all the roadblocks ,when a sportsman finally gets to live his dream and goes on to lay that first foot on the sacred grounds of his sporting arena, he has still to face that last hurdle. To please the countrymen!
            A dot ball, a missed penalty, a weak forehand...and you can hear the booes can almost not hear the praise amongst the spate of invectives. A lost match...and you can hear the stones being pelted at your home. An incorrect medication...and you can hear vilification being directed at you of you being a cheater. A wrong move..and you can almost feel the heat of your effigy being burned. Indian audience although very enthused about few sports takes a red eye towards most of the other sports.The absent crowds from the stadium does nothing to invigorate the spirit of excellence amongst the athletes. In a country where those who dont play are the handlers of the games, its hardly surprising that more often than not the players have to face the ire of his countrymen. With no one to back him up, he performs under pressure. We need captains like Dhoni in every sport who would back players, we need coaches like maradona in every sport who are ready to put on stake their modesty for his team’s performance.
           It was great to watch many youngsters receive the coveted sport awards this year. They smiled as they got their much deserved recognition and respect. But its high time we see the thorn forests in the backdrop they have hiked through to reach this summit of light and give them their due in terms of patience and support.
      Gold will follow the claps....Silver will sliver as you see the effort beneath it ....Bronze will brace itself for a new tricolour ...

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Murali Reitres, Dutch Delight and Paes wins and Paki revenge

There has been an aweful lot happening lately.

Firstly, Murali has decided to hang up his boots after the first test agains India at Galle. The spin-wizzard is on 792 wickets now and needs 8 more to reach the unimaginable 800. Will he decide to play one more test if he finishes on 799? I would say no. The good news for the Sri Lankan fans is that the smiling-asassin is retiring only from tests and not the ODIs. One can safely assume that the world cup 2011 will be his last hurrah. In a career spanning the best part of 2 decades, the journey has been a tough one for Murali. The offie had a tough tour down-under in 95-96 and called for throwing by the OZ umpires. He then won the WC in '96 and kept picking wickets in bulk till his tour down under in 98-99. Again, he was called for throwing and he must be grateful to Arjuna Ranatunga for teh wayy he handled the situation. A weaker captain would have wilted under the pressure and stop Murali for bowling. Arjuna instead threatened to "walk off" in order to protect his off-spinner. There have been planty of allegations against him starting from BEdi, who called all his wickets and "run outs", Warne, Dean Jones, Holding and Martin Crowe amongst others. I, for one, was also one of those not in support of Murali and his action. Just because he was born with a deformity in his arm should not have convinced the ICC to let him bowl the way he did. And then, when they conducted those tests on him, the tests were conducted in a "cricket laboratory" instead of an actual match situation. I will not blame Murali for this, but the ICC for the way they handled the situation. Another point which the Warne fans can use is that Murali averages over 30 against Australia and Idnia, probably the two teams who had the best batsmen during his era. He has 76 wickets against Bangladesh at 12 a piece and 87 against Zimbabwe at 17 a piece. His record would still be good even if you took out these wickets against the minnows. But, to me, his unclean action and his inability to pick wickets against the top teams would prevent him from getting into the top bowlers of the world.

Holland won 3-2 over Uruguay. Indeed, the Uruguayans clearly missed the strike force of Suarez, (who has been really maligned for his hand ball against Ghana. I think any other footballer would have done the same in that situation). Forlan waged a lone battle up-front. The former ManU striker has continued his awesome form into the world cup. He is one of those "volunteer" footballers. He will come back, get the ball, pass it, take corners and free-kicks, distrubute the ball and most importantly score goals. For all the hype behind people like Barry some other so-called "stars" from Europe, particularly England, Forlan has taught them a lesson as to how to play the game. Why did Machester United let him go? Indeed, had Suarez been there, this would have been a much tougher game for the Dutch, who got a lucky break on the second gol. Not only was it a deflection, it was also a goal in which Van Persie was fortunate to have been judged off side. He clearly raised his foot, and was thus, "in play" when the ball crept into the Uruguayan goal.

Leander Paes and Zimbabwe's Cara Black won the mixed doubles for India. Did anyone know? Again, Leander's achievement has gone unnoticed among all the Football and Rafa Nadal hula-hoo......

Meanwhile, Pakistan got sweet-revenge against Australia, the team which battered the South-Asians 3-0 in tests, 5-0 in Odis and 2-0 in T20s earlier this year. And when Hussey completed the mirraculous turn-around at St. Lucia in the world cup semi-finals, it seemed as though even "biting balls" would not help Pakistan win against the OZs. Inspired by the young guns- Umar Gul, Mohd. Aamer and Umar Akmal, Pakistan outsmarted the Ozs in the two T20s.