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.