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.