Sunday, December 28, 2008

Dhoni Leads World XI

Sydney Morning Herald aptly underlined the erosion of Australia's position in world Cricket as only one Aussie found place in World Test Team for 2008. Not long ago such World XI outfits used to have at least 5 - 6 Baggy Green caps. Times change quickly. A couple of all time greats quit, but Ponting and his arrogant buddies find it hard to come to terms with the reality.

Only two Indians (Gautam Gambhir and MS Dhoni) find place in the selection, with MSD as Captain of the side. While choice of most of the players appears to be obvious one, the selection seems to based on figures rather than quality. The skillful swing bowling of Zaheer on the unresponsive Indian pitches ought to have earned him a berth in the eleven in place of Sidebottom. Even Ishant Sharma, who as Peter Roebuck acknowledges, was outstanding, but is not there. I would have preferred Sehwag to Gambhir as a partner to Smith because of his effective spin bowling capability. Daniel Vettori too, has done well enough this year to warrant his inclusion.

Nomination of Andrew Symonds as twelfth man is amusing. Probably the panelists were embarrassed to find only one Australian , Mitchell Johnson, winning place in the eleven. While others have earned their place on the basis of their performance, Symonds too deserves his place, on the basis of his performance, off the field!

Read article in Sydney Morning Herald:

Only one Australian in best XI of the year

Sunday, December 21, 2008

From Perth to Perth : Story of Aussie Decline

On the morning of January 16th this year, Australian Cricket was on top of the world as Ricky Ponting went for the toss on the WACA ground in Perth. With the team oozing with confidence on the back of record sixteen consecutive wins, the Aussies seemed invincible. But they came in for a rude shock at the hands of inspired Indian team, which was carrying bitter feeling of being cheated in the earlier test. The downward slide of the Australian team that started then, completed its course today at the very WACA where South Africa brought them crashing to earth by easily chasing down second highest target in the history.

If we trace Australia's journey from Perth to Perth, we can say that their fall from grace today was in the offing. ( So far 13 tests, 5 wins, 4 losses)They of course lost tamely to India. But even the two series victories against WI and NZ were far from convincing.

In May this year in first test in Windies, Ponting's men folded up inside 200 in second innings, but hosts could not chase a target less than three hundred. In the second test too, Aussie bowling attack could not break through Sarwan and Chandapaul even though they had 372 runs lead. Even in the final test, WI could get close to four hundred chasing a target of 475. Considering that Caribbean Cricket is in deep doldrums, the staunchest Aussie supporters won't treat this as a convincing show by their team.

The vulnerability of Kangaroos was again exposed by their arch rival neighbours, the New Zealanders. In first test earlier this month, the Kiwis had a upper hand for the majority of the play but probably lost their nerve and thereby lost chance to emulate their fellow Rugby team to defeat Aussies in their own den. Ponting's team duly won the second test, but by then chinks in their armoury were wide open and shrewd Graeme Smith exploited it perfectly to register a demoralising win so much so that Ponting today can't make out what let him down - bating or bowling!

Aussies have lost the crown. Fight is between SA and India. Both teams are a fine blend of experience and youth with captain leading from the front. The Ashes this summer are relegated as a bronze medal match. But if the English Critics are to believed, their team, even though being battered badly by the Indians, is good enough to humble Australia. Indians will be keen to watch who's a better loser!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Moment of truth for Rahul Dravid

Different players find themselves on the verge of losing their place in the team because of different reasons. Ganguly went out as success went to his head, Last year, Sehwag was dropped because of his reckless approach. Yuvi lost his vice-captaincy as a result of uncertain temperament. Today, people are asking for Dravid’s head although he is unlikely to be dropped. But why the things have come to this point? Is it the form? Fitness? Fatigue? No it is his obsession to succeed that is leading to his downfall!

Rahul Dravid, as everybody knows, is a very intense character. He always is in pursuit of perfection. In early part of his career, he used to miss the centuries regularly. Eventually, he mastered the art of going past the century mark. He proved the experts wrong as he transformed himself into a useful ODI batsman even if it meant lifting extra responsibility as wicket keeper. Dravid is not a natural leader. But he took captaincy too seriously at the expense of his batting consistency. Tendulkar realized it very early that captaincy is not his cup of tea. For Dravid, the realization was too late to rediscover his batting form. As soon as he left the captaincy, he promptly lost his ODI berth and that seems to have hurt him so much that it started to affect his batting in tests.

If nothing succeeds like success, nothing fails like failure too! Rahul Dravid cuts a very sorry figure in the field these days. The poor bating form seems to have rubbed off to his catching prowess too. Second most catches to his name, but he's seen dropping absolute sitters regularly.He appears to be a loner more than ever, quietly reading something in a corner of dressing room after getting out early.

The captain, the team, selectors, everybody is with him. There's no pressure from them. Ironically, the pressure on him is from him only. At the moment, it doesn't seem likely that he will be able to overcome his own pressure. Fortunately his failures are not costing the team much right now. When the things will change one never knows. Hence Mohali Test starting today is really his last chance either to redeem or relinquish.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Saina Breaks into Top 10 || Sania Fades out of 100

The year 2008 has been of contrasting fortunes for the Hyderabadi ladies of Indian Sport. Saina Nehawal’s exploits over last few months have earned her a top ten spot in World Women’s Badminton rankings. Unfortunately, for the Sania Mirza , the glamour queen of Indian sport, her WTA ranking is having a free fall and is out of world top Hundred!

Sania’s meteoric rise had caught the imagination of Indian teenagers a few years ago. Her triumph at Wimbledon Junior doubles, quickly followed by impressive runs in a couple of Grand slams was enough to earn her the adulation from public and media. Endorsements and off the court controversies probably came too early for her. Her competitors too, had a measure of her game. Frequent bouts of injuries also didn’t help. For Sania, it is a long battle ahead as she starts a new season.

Saina Nehwal, on the other hand, is a low key figure. In fact, till her spectacular show in the Olympics where she reached quarter finals, very little was known about her, even though she had won a major title (Philippines Open) in 2006 and being runner-up in World Junior championship in the same year. But the lack of media attention was a blessing in disguise for her as she could continue to improve and impress. Gold in CYG and World Junior championship at Pune and impressive performances in the Super Series has ensured that she becomes the highest ranked Indian female Shuttler ever.

Both Saina and Sania are the potential medal winners for India at London Olympics in 2012. They lead the pack of ambitious and aggressive breed of new Indian sportsmen. So it is important that Indian sports loving public backs both them. I see a few self styled critics coming down heavily on Sania Mirza. Considering that Tennis is more competitive, being popular across the world, than Badminton which is more Oriental in the sense dominated by East Asian countries, Sania’s feat of reaching top 30 position is also no mean achievement. Age is still on her side. Let us hope she bounces back to her best form in coming days.

Conrgats to Saina and Best of Luck Sania!!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Anand and Hampi Skip Chess Olympiad, but India are not Complaining

While Vishwanathan Anand was receiving hero’s welcome on his return to home after winning World Chess Championship, Indian teams (men and women) were aiming for top ten finishes in the 38th Chess Olympiad Dresden Germany.

While Anand wanted to take time off after the recent world title match (but Kramnik, who must be just as exhausted, is playing for Russia), top ranked Indian woman Koneru Hampi too withdrew from the team because of unspecified reasons. In spite of their absence the teams fared fairly creditably. The Indian men team finished 16th while the eves had to be content with a 15th place finish.

Anand had played in the last Olympiad Turin, Italy in 2006 and had a torrid time. It was largely responsible for second seeded men team finishing at a poor 30th position. Hampi too, was there at Turin, and even though the team earned 12th spot, her performance was far from impressive.

Chess Olympiad is like a Cricket world cup. Most top players like including Kramnik, Topolav, Magnus Carlssen , Svidler, Kamsky, Short, Gelfand , Ivanchuk and others were representing their respective countries. It is therefore disappointing to see top ranked Indians giving it a miss. Anand skipping chess Olympiad is like Sachin resting himself in the World cup!

There were some plusses for India though. Mary Ann Gomes won the silver on women’s fourth board; Tania Sachdev held her own on the second board with a +2 score; and K. Sasikiran lost just one game on the top board (against Gata Kamsky), winning three, in the open section.

Then there was Jennitha Anto, this 20-year-old, Polio-Stricken girl from Tiruchi, Tamil Nadu, representing the women’s team of International Physically disabled Chess Association (IPCA). She was the only non-Russian in this five-member team. And she passed the test with flying colours, tallying eight points from 11 rounds playing on the third board.

Ninth seeded Armenia won its second straight gold medal while Israel took silver. The United States took bronze on a tiebreaker after upsetting second-seed Ukraine with a 3.5-0.5 drubbing,

In the women's section, Georgia regained the Crown. Ukraine had the consolation of winning Silver after their men’s team faltered at the last hurdle after remaining undefeated. It was a disappointing tournament for the favourites, Russia, who, top seeded in both categories, could not figure in medal list in either of them.

Indian teams could have finished better had Sandipan Chanda (men) and world junior champion Dronavalli Harika (women) fared better than they did. In fact till about fifth round, the teams were in real contention for the medals. But, nevertheless, India’s stature as an important force in international chess is increasing.

I conclude this post on a disappointing note. In spite of the stress of the world championship match, Anand’s ( and Hampi’s too) decision to skip this one is really disappointing. As G Joslin Vethakumar rightly wonders - do our top players give their best only when they play for themselves and not for the country? Is their poor performance in 2006 the main reason for their absence from this year’s event? Importantly, are they right in forsaking the country in critical tournaments such as this?

Related articles :

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Is Sachin Tendulkar Killing the Young Batting Talent?

In Mahabharata, the great Indian Epic, there’s this story of King Yayaati borrowing youth from his son Puru to continue enjoying all the pleasures a King of his position could command. Is Sachin too, eating into careers of promising youngsters like Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina, Cheteshwar Pujara etc.?

What else can be said when Sachin decides to return to play against a pedestrian England team? And look what happened? Who had to sit out the Bangalore ODI? Young Rohit Sharma, who played a very crucial Innings when India were stuttering while chasing a D/L target in the earlier match. Rohit had shown lot of promise on the trip down under and needs to be given confidence. Instead, he is being shunted in and out of the team and his position in the batting order too, is frequently being moved up and down. This may ruin his career but so what Sachin’s pile of runs will keep on increasing!

Does Indian team really need Sachin now? Frankly not – at least in ODI’s and certainly not while playing in India and most definitely not against this England side. This present ODI team has done well in last six months. In Asia cup, against Sri Lanka and half way through this series against England. All without Sachin. Even on his return, one really expected Sachin voluntarily bat down the order thereby keeping the Sehwag – Gambhir partnership, which has been very fruitful in last one year, keeping going. This much of a sacrifice was expected from the great man. But he chose not to.

In tests yes Sachin Tendulkar does have role to play for at least a year. Especially with Ganguly gone and Dravid almost certainly will go. But even in Test as well as ODI, what more really can he achieve in may be another year or so? A few more Hundreds may be. But what kind of difference it will make to his already huge stature? The records? He already hold every record in the book, which even he should know are going to be broken one day or the other. So why kep going?

Even after having achieved everything under the sun, what makes Sachin crave for more? In that Mahabharata story, Yayaati was reluctant to return youth to his son even after thousand years! Sachin too, is reluctant to call it quits even after glorious cricketing life for nearly two decades and denying promising youngsters to showcase their talent.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Australia Lose Once Again – This Time Rugby League World Cup

Readers of this blog might be surprised to see an unusual subject – Rugby - of this post. But, the result of Saturday’s Rugby League world cup final is surely one of the major upsets in 2008. And yes, here’s an Indian rejoicing over Kangaroos being floored by the Kiwi’s.

Like most of Indian sports lovers, I know very little about Rugby. I only know that there’s something called Rugby League and Rugby Union. The only reference to Rugby comes when you follow the interests of Cricketers from southern hemisphere – South Africa, New Zealand and Australia. Obviously Rugby is not for Indians. It is too physical a sport for their comfort. The Indian Psyche is best suited for a leisurely sport like Cricket where even a T20 game lasting for three hours is ‘fast paced’ Forget the body tackles, even a physical contact is asking for punishment, as Gautam Gambhir learnt a hard way. But this news of All Blacks toppling hot favourites Kangaroos to win the World cup suddenly attracted my attention and there was this feeling of ‘O these bigheaded Aussies! They deserve it’
The Guardian reports that following one sided defeats of England and New Zealand in the league stages, the Aussie media was suggesting a Rest of World XIII to have a semblance of contest with the Australian team. But in the final, the Black caps really turned it on to pull off a major upset and delight to the Kiwi public.

The Kiwi public could well have a double delight had their Cricketers not let the Ricky Ponting’s men off the hook. At the end of second day’s play of the recently concluded test match in Brisbane, New Zealand clearly had upper hand. Probably Vettori and his men could not withstand ‘the victory staring in their eyes’ and in the end surrendered meekly.

This year 2008 has not been particularly good for Australian sport. Their all conquering Hockey team lost in Olympics semi final. Their Cricket team is on the verge of losing its number one status to India. Now it has lost a prestigious World Crown in Rugby. We will wait and see how this proud nation bounces back.

Friday, November 21, 2008

FedEx Develops a Snag: Tennis in 2008

International tennis season ended last week with Masters Open in Shanghai. At the same time last year, Roger Federer seemed invincible. Ardent Federer fans like me didn’t mind handing over the clay court season to Rafael Nadal. After all, the previous Wimbledon great, Pete Sampras, too never won the French Open. Even though Nadal ran very close to Roger Federer in 2007 Wimbledon finals, no one ever doubted his invincibility.
The year 2008, however, started on the wrong foot for Roger Federer. Serbian Djokivic pipped him for the Australian Grand Slam. The clay court season predictably went to Nadal. Federer on his part was sure that he would hold on to his crown at Wimbledon. But the worst came true for him as he lost an epic five setter to Nadal.
This loss really shook him to the core. To him this loss was as if his strongest bastion has fallen. Throughout the rest of the year, he could not overcome this shock. Coming close to it was his early exit in Olympics. He did win the doubles gold, but one could see his effort he was not required to put in earlier. He was clearly required to draw heavily on his reserves.
In his triumph at US open too, he seemed to carry the monkey of Wimbledon loss on his shoulders. The psychological beating was followed by injuries and fitness worries. The latter half of the year saw the rise of another Federer nemesis – Andy Murray. Even though these three musketeers, Nadal, Djokovic and Murray still hold RF in high regard, they now believe that he can be beaten. Clearly the Federer power is on the wane.
Can he make a comeback in 2009? Past masters like Borg and Edberg are putting in their theories as to what changes he should make in his game to regain top spot. It is not going to be easy though. Firstly, he has to get over the shattering feeling of loss at his ‘very own’ Wimbledon. For him this is a struggle with himself. He also needs to realize that the others are catching up with him. Again, the young brigade has an advantage of at least five years. But still, a more pragmatic and fit Roger Federer can certainly prolong his reign at the top. It remains to be seen I what frame of mind he steps on to the courts of Australian Open.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Aiming Glory at London 2012

As expected by many, the heroics of Indian athletes were duly forgotten by the Indian public as the cricketers began taking centre stage. The likes of Abhinav Bindra, Vijender and Sushil Kumar who became the darlings of Indian media and people as they won unprecedented three medals for the country and received tumultuous reception and were showered with praise and prize money. One wonders if these Olympians would have received the same ovation had the celebrity cricketers like Sachin and Dravid had not flopped badly in Sri Lanka around the same time.
This month saw some of the most glorious sporting achievements by Indian sportsmen in sports other than Cricket and yet they hardly got the attention they deserved. Vishy Anand became the undisputed world Chess Champion by beating Russian Vladimir Kramnik just recently. This surely must rank as one of the topmost accomplishments by an Indian. Yet it was overshadowed by Tendulkar becoming the highest run getter in Test Cricket.
Last week, three promising Indians fared most successfully on the world stage. Ironically their feats were hardly noticed against the emotional backdrop of Anil Kumble’s retirement. Saina Nehwal, the potential Gold medal winner in 2012 Olympics, won the World Junior Badminton crown. Nanao Singh won the Gold at world Junior Boxing championship. Gagan Narang did India proud by winning gold at the World Shooting Championship.But the media was so busy paying tributes to Anil Kumble that these feats were left to be displayed in the news trackers at the bottom of the screens of news channels!
As a matter of fact, India now has a good bunch of athletes in few sports who can be expected to fare better in forthcoming Olympics. These talented athletes desperately need backing of we Indians. We as a nation have to rally around them and boost their confidence. Avnish Anand has taken this initiative - India at London - to mobilise enthusiasm among sports loving fraternity.
It is indeed high time that India pays serious attention to Olympics as success in Olympics is now being equated to the nation's all round excellence. India's might is now being recognised internationally in many fields such as military strength, Economic development, science and technology. So why should we lag behind in sports? Let us all come together and take India to sporting glory as well. Go India Go!!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Is Anil Kumble India's Greatest Bowler?

As the Indian Cricket team enters the VCA Stadium in Nagpur tommorrow, it will be without Anil Kumble, India's most successful bowler in nearly two decades. Ever since Kumble announced his retirement a couple of days ago, glowing tributes are being paid to him by everybody. Cricket Pundits, most of whom Kumble's former colleagues have tried to put him on par with, if not ahead of, all time greats like Sachin and Kapil.
While comparing Kumble to Sachin - the specialist batsman, and Kapil - an all rounder, may be a little out of place, Kumble's exploits as a bowler can be reviewed against performance of some of the top class bowlers India has produced over the years. There is no doubt that statistically speaking Anil Kumble is the highest wicket taker and biggest natch winner. But statistics has to be linked with circumstances.
Anil Kumble's 619 wickets come in 132 tests he played during the span of eighteen years (1990 - 2008). For most part of his career, he was the lone strike bowler India had. Hence it is natural he claimed major share of wickets. In the sixties and seventies, India had services of famous spin quartet (Prasanna, Bedi, Chandra and Venkat) all of whom were match winners. Hence the spoils had to be shared by them.
India plays 10-15 test every year now. Earlier, the test matches were few and far in between. Erapalli Prasanna's career spanned for 16 years (1962-1978) in which he got only 49 tests and claimed 189 wickets. Same is the case with other spin greats. (Bedi, 13 years, 67 tests, 266 wickets), (Chandra, 15 years, 58 tests, 242 wickets). If the same amount of Cricket was played in those days as it is now, there is no doubt that all of them would have reached 600 wickets! ( List of Indian Test bowlers with most wickets )
Kumble has played in an era when India boasts of strongest ever batting line up. Prolific run scoring spree of Sachin, Dravid, Ganguly, Laxman, Sehwag has contributed a large deal to Kumble's success. Prasanna, Bedi and co. on the other hand had to contend with the poor batting strength of the team. Only Gavaskar and vishwanath were the world class batsmen in the Seventies.
Cricket is a professional sport now. It is a full time profession mow. The cricketers of earlier generations were ametur sportsmen, involved in other mundane employment when away from the game. Kumble had an edge over modern fitness and training regimes which some of the earlier greats did not have.
The advent of limited overs version has also influenced test cricket. Cricket is more attacking and hence there are more opportunities to take wickets. Kumble has certainly benefited and so has Warne and Murali. Cricket has a wider following now because of live TV coverage. Hence, the exploits of the likes of Kumble have instant impact on the viewers.
This is not to take away anything from fom Kumble has achieved. All the credit to him for serving Indian Cricket for so long, and with such dignity. Statistically yes, He is the most successful bowler. Is he the greatest? I have my own reservations. What do you think? please go ahead and have your say..

Related Posts:

Kumble's Exit : Inevitable But Sad

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Kumble's Exit : Inevitable But Sad

All good things eventually do come to an end. The news of Kumble's retirement that was announced this afternoon during the course of final day's play at Kotla was not exactly unexpected. It was clearly a news waiting to happen. Those who followed Australia's first innings batting must have seen Kumble's exaggerated exaltation as he claimed three lower order wickets. Three tests without troubling any top order batsman had clearly alarmed him. As it turned out, he himself revealed that he had made his decision on Saturday itself!

Playing international sport for nearly two decades with great distinction is certainly not every one's cup of tea. Anil Kumble's on field achievements are extra-ordinary no doubt. But his modest and dignified off the field behaviour is what will be missed in today's age where more and more sportsmen - even Indians - are frequently in the spotlight more for their tantrums than their performances on the ground.

Ironically despite taking nearly a thousand international wickets, Kumble never got a nod of approval from the game's purists as a top class spinner. He was all the while criticised for not having classical leg spinner's attributes. But never mind he won most matches for India than the famous spin quartet in seventies.

As the one day cricket started becoming poular, a spinner was feared as endangered species, three Cricketers Warne, Kumble and Murali revived the art of spin bowling. Ironically again, Kumble is not regarded in the same breath as the other two. This is probably because the controversies surrounding the other two - On field ones around Murali and off field ones around Warne!

When great men retire they leave behind a great vacuum. Fortunately for India the void created by Kumble's departure is ready to filled in. Captaincy reigns are ready to be taken over by MS Dhoni who has already proved his leadership qualities. Kumble's legspinning legacy is well and truly rested with the likes of Amit Mishra, Piyush Chawla and Chaitanya Nanda. Having said that, it is hard to find a person with the same integrity, same application and same fierece competitive spirit as Anil Kumble brought to Indian dressing room. A sad day for Indian Cricket indeed!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Tale of Two Coaches : Lawson Sacked by Pakistan, Maradona Appointed by Argentina

Apparently, there is nothing similar between Geoff Lawson and Diego Maradona. But, the recent developments involving these men have a stigma of desperateness around them. Earlier this week, the Pakistan Cricket Board hurriedly decided to remove Lawson from his post of Head coach of Pakistan Cricket team. And since yesterday, the news of Maradona being made Head Coach of Argentina's national soccer team is making rounds.
Lawson played as a fast bowler for Australia in eighties with moderate success ( 180 wickets in 46 tests ). But the PCB thought him fit to be their national coach after the turmoil that followed Bob Woolmer's mysterious death during the world cup in 2007. Maradona on the other hand, is a living football legend. He led the Argentine national team to world cup victory in 1986 and took the team to finals of 1990 world cup. But his unceremonious exit from the football scene resulted from his affair with drugs related abuses that literally pushed him to the brink of death on more than one occasions. All of a sudden we find him again on the centerstage as he is entrusted the task to guide Argentina to 2010 world cup in South Africa.
One can't but feel sorry for Lawson. One can understand if the coach is sacked if the team does badly under him. In Lawson's case the Pakistani team hardly played any cricket in the last 15 months (Lawson's tenure as coach). The unstable political scenario and terror attacks in Pakistan meant that no foreign team visited Pakistan. The team had only 5 tests against the minnows and to add to the woes, team's star performers Shoaib and Md.Asif got in drug tangles. New government means new cricket set up in Pakistan. Miandad, reportedly close to the new dispensation in Islamabad is tipped to take over as coach for fourth time. Lawson sadly had to make way for him.
For Football crazy Argentine public, Maradona is god. They adore him despite his erratic behaviour and drug related offences. But even the ardent Maradona fans must have been shocked to know about his appointment as coach. There is no doubt about the footballing skills of Maradona. One feels that this move is a high risk one as Argentina are lagging on the third position in the qualification round for the world cup and Maradona has virtually no experience of coaching. Will his skills as a player be sufficient to see Argentina through to South Africa? For a man who could not manage his own affairs properly, it will be a huge ask to lead the second most soccer-passionate country.

The football federation of Argentina seems to be hoping that the same Hand of god that won them their last world cup comes to their rescue. It seems to an inspired move to appoint Maradona, but it will be nothing short of miracle if he indeed succeeds!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Is the Captain as good as the Team OR Does a better Captain bring Best Out of the Team?

Even as the Indian Cricket crazy public is rejoicing over the Indian team's thumping victory over the Aussies in Mohali Test, the Selection committee headed by K.Srikanth must be having sleepless nights. They must be hoping that Anil Kumble doesn't get fit for the upcoming test matches and the selection committee is saved from the dilemma over the team combination as well as captaincy.
The success of MS Dhoni in the role of stand-in captain brings us to this question. Is the Captain as good as the Team OR Does a better Captain bring Best Out of the Team? Kumble is India's test captain for the last four series. Under him, the team could not put it across a below par Pakistan team. He did display statesmanlike qualities in tumultuous Autralia tour earlier this year, but could not win the series for India. India did win the rubber against South Africa on the basis of win in one test in which he was injured and Dhoni stood as captain. The team's performance was extremely dismal in Sri Lanka just a few months ago. Even in the first test against the Aussies, the team had barely scraped through to a face saving draw.
It is hard to believe that the same team with nearly the same combination played last week. Only thing that was different was the team had a different captain. Does the captain make such a difference to the team's fortunes? Cricket critics always use this adage : Captain is as good as the team. Is it really so?
Take Saurav Ganguly. the team that he inherited was no different from the team captained by Sachin Tendulkar. When it comes to Cricketing brain and intelligence, Tendulkar is no less that Ganguly. Yet the fact remains that while Sachin failed miserably as a captain, Ganguly is regarded as one of the best. So also Kapil's world cup winning team was not much different from the one that lost badly to Pakistan.
Elsewhere too, such examples of losing teams suddenly performing better under exceptional captains can be seen. Mike Brearly's legendary leadership skills are well documented. England's dramatic turnaround under Kevin Pieterson is the latest instance. Like the basic cricket skills, batting, bowling and fielding, the captaincy is also a specialised skill that everybody cannot possess. Hence Indian Board's policy to appoint the senior most player as the captain makes little sense. Dhoni has shown time and again that he has a natural flair for captaincy. So the selectors sould come out of their dilemma and pass on the captaincy mantle to him.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Sachin Tendulkar and Vishwanathan Anand | Interesting Parallels

It is not often that two Indians attract sporting headlines internationally on the same day. October 17, 2008 is one such rare day when two of the greatest sportspersons India has produced, Sachin Tendulkar and Vishwanathan Anand both grabbed international attention by fantastic performances. As Sachin went past Brian Lara's record to become highest run-getter in Test Cricket, Anand today drew first blood in World Chess championship match now going on in Germany by spectacularly beating Vladimir Kramnik.

I find very interesting similarities in Sachin and Anand. First and foremost, both are the most dignified ambassadors for India. In their long careers spanning almost decades, both are widely respected even by the opponents for their humility and dedication towards their profession. Both of them hail from a typical Indian middle class background. They acknowledge huge role of their family members in their success.

Their careers began almost simultaneously. Anand became World Junior chess champion in 1987 while Sachin made his international debut in 1989 with promising show against strong Pakistani team. Anand's undisputed proficiency in Rapid and Blindfold Chess is equivalent to Sachin's exploits in limited over edition (ODI) of Cricket. In his illustrious career, Anand has won every honour in the field of International Chess and is widely regarded as the most complete Chess player. Sachin too, is unequivocally regarded as the best batsman in the world today.

Both Anand and Sachin are the face of India in the post liberalisation world. They epitomise the confident and aggressive new generation. Both have inspired many youngsters to follow their footsteps. Anand became India's first Grandmaster. Today India has a battery of Grandmasters and is recognised as Chess Superpower. Cricket, on the other hand had already captured the imagination of Indians with world Cup victory in 1983. But Sachin has led Indian Cricket to Golden age. Indian Cricket today rules the world.

Ironically, both these Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award winners, because of their soft and dignified nature seem to give impression that they lack that killer instinct to deliver the knock out punch at the most crucial moment. While Anand fans were hugely disappointed when he lost to Kasparov in World Challenge Final in 1995, Sachin let India down in 2003 world cup final against Australia.

Both of them were in similar situation as they went into their current assignment. Sachin had a disastrous tour of Sri Lanka just before the ongoing series. Anand too was at his worst in the Bilbao tournament just a month ago. But today both came into their own and displayed their old brilliance. Today Sachin is on top of the world. Anand too with today's brilliant victory is well and truly on course to become the undisputed World Champion. All the Indians are proud of their most beloved sporting heroes.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Why is India-Australia rivalry bigger than Ashes?

First Cricket test between India and Australia got underway today at Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru. Gripping tussle between the two teams for gaining upper hand at the end of first day's play has given enough indications of the fierce battle which going to be fought over the next one month.
Till the Nineties, India used to get very little opportunities to play against the Aussies. It is only after the 1996 world cup that Australian Cricket board started engaging Indian teams more frequently. The fact that BCCI started to emerge as the money spinner in world cricket surely is one of the reasons. Earlier, the Indian team used to get barely one series in a decade against Australia. But, the current series is 8th time India and Australia are battling it out for Border-Gavaskar Trophy since 1996.
Australia have largely dominated in the history of world cricket although there have been intermittent spells of other nations enjoying supremacy. Like West Indies in the seventies and South Africans for a brief period in late sixties. In last twenty years though, successive Australian teams have built an aura of invincibility around themselves.
After the Packer era, the Australian team was at the lowest ebb with simultaneous retirements of Chappell brothers, pace duo of Lillee and Thomson and Rodney Marsh. The team rebuilding exercise started under Allan border and a seemingly unending stream of talented Cricketers like Mark Taylor, Waugh brothers, Ponting, Warne and McGrath made Australian outfit the best in the world.
Add to this the fact that other teams around the world lacked the quality to match them. West Indies has slowly faded away with Walsh and Ambrose being their last world class performers. English teams lacked the quality of Botham, Willis and Gower although Michel Vaughan pulled off an inspired upset in 2005 Ashes series. Pakistanis always are too unpredictable to combat team like Aussies. Moreover with Akram and Waqar gone it has been reduced to toothless tiger.
The only team that has dared to have an eyeball to eyeball contact with the Aussies has been India. Australians are known to resort to sledging to soften up the opposition players, but continue to brag about their spirit of the game. Indians started replying first by their on field performances and of late by matching them in verbal duals. One can trace the roots of India-Australia rivalry back to 1981-82 series in which Sandip Patil hammered Lilee, Thommo and Poscoe to all parts of WACA and then injured Kapil, having painkiller injections to bowl, skittled mighty Kangaroo batting line up inside hundred to pull off a dramatic win.
The all conquering Aussie team of Nineties could not master Indian pitches. The likes of Warne, McGrath, Waugh brothers could get very little success. So much so that the visuals of Sachin Tendulkar hoisting him out of the ground started haunting Shane Warne. Ricky Ponting’s pathetic run of scores in India is well known (He has put the record straight today though!)
What pinched the Australians most was the famous Calcutta test defeat in 2001. The Indians broke their record winning streak even after following on after more than 300 runs in deficit in the first innings. New Heroes in the form of Harbhajan, Dravid and Laxman emerged for India. Steve Waugh’s desire to conquer the ‘final frontier’ remained unfulfilled. In fact, Waugh barely escaped with a draw against India (2003-04) in his last series at home.
Even though the Aussies did manage to beat India in India in 2005, India’s return visit earlier this year has proved to one of the most controversial series in the history of test cricket. The ugly incidences involving Symonds, Harbhajan and Hayden, Kumble’s allegation that Aussies violated spirit of the game, BCCI using its financial clout to get the umpire removed. All this along with the fact that India once again broke its winning streak of 16 tests and convincingly winning tri-series has humiliated the Aussie players and they are out to avenge their humiliation.
Indian team on the other hand is facing a period of transition. The last decade has been a golden era for Indian Cricket both in terms of its financial importance and the quality of Cricketers. Four world class middle order batsmen ( Dravid, Sachin, Layman and Ganguly ), a most explosive opener ( Sehwag ), two world class spinners ( Kumble and Harbhajan ) – so many superstars playing together is a rarity. But the senior pros are at the twilight of their glittering career. Hence it is only natural that they want to go out on high. What better occasion to have their swansong than beating Australia in their last assignment?
With both teams having huge incentives to do their best, at least the series is surely bigger than the Ashes. The entire cricketing world is keen to know which one come on top. Let us enjoy enthralling Cricket over the next one month. May the best team win!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Selector Krish Shrikanth’s Defensive Stroke: India Fields the Same Old Battalion against the Aussies

Kris Shrikanth was known for his swashbuckling approach and the way he used to throw caution to wind while batting for India in the Eighties. He has, however, started is innings as Indian selector on a very sedate note. The newly appointed selection committee headed by him took a conservative approach while picking the team to play against Aussies. Almost entire test squad that lost to Sri Lanka has been selected for first two tests.

Indian team’s lethargic performance against Sri Lanka a few days ago was largely attributed to the combined failure of ageing seniors. The selectors had dropped a hint by omitting Ganguly from Irani trophy squad. The Ganguly supporters, who had made strong protests when he was earlier dropped in 2006, were not so agitated this time. On the other hand, there was a question raised in some quarters: Why only Ganguly? Why not others? The outgoing Chairman of selectors, Dilip Vengsarkar had clearly stated that Ganguly was dropped on the grounds of form and fitness.

Nothing has happened since Sri Lanka tour that warrants recall to Ganguly. He hasn’t played any first class match since then. True, the contenders for his place – Badrinath, Kaif didn’t do well in lead up games. But either them or Suresh Raina or Rohit Sharma should have been given chance. That would have been a step towards building team for future. Ganguly’s recall is surely a backward step. There is this talk of BCCI’s VRS scheme for the seniors. But this gesture could well cost India the series as the Aussies led by Ricky Ponting are in the mood to avenge their defeat earlier this year.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Davis Cup Tennis: India fails to Regain World Group Berth

A thrilling 3-2 win against Uzbekistan earlier this year had rekindled a hope that India would win its play-off encounter and book its place in prestigious World Group of Davis Cup. But the play-off encounter against Romania a few days ago was a disaster. Meek surrender by India’s singles players resulted in 1-4 bashing. An easy win by seasoned doubles pair of Paes and Bhupati was the lone saving grace.
India last played in elite World Group in 1998. Since then it is languishing in he Asia-Oceania group. With lack of top quality singles players being quite apparent, India’s re-entry in the world group looks improbable at least in the near future.
India in fact has the distinction of being three time runner up of the Davis Cup. In 1966, Ramnathan Krishnan led India to the finals before being beaten by Australia, a powerful Tennis nation then. In 1974, Amritraj brothers were at the height of their form, and would almost certainly have won the finals against South Africa, but for Indian government’s decision to forfeit the tie to condemn the countries apartheid policy. In 1987, Vijay had teamed with Ramesh Krishnan to surprise mighty Australia in semifinals only to be squarely beaten by Sweden consisting of the likes of Edberg and Wilander in their ranks.
India never had players who ranked in top twenties. Yet, it always fared splendidly in Davis Cup. The main reason behind India’s impressive record was that India always had at least one player capable of surprising even the best of players in a Davis cup match. The Krishnans, Amritraj brothers and even Paes early in his career has pulled off stunning upsets in Davis Cup matches. Sadly, Paes neglected his singles play as he started tasting success in doubles tournaments in the company of Bhupati.. His doubles career started flourishing in 1998 coinciding with India’s failure to make it to world group.
India’s current crop of players representing the country, (Bopanna, Prakash Amritraj, Somdev Deoburman) all are ranked above 250 in the world. Moreover, they don’t seem to have the passion to fight it out for the country. Add to that the fact that Lee-Hesh duo are in the twilight of their career. That leads one to sadly conclude that India’s entry in elite group is far away.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Ganguly axed. Who is Next?

Recent exclusion of Saurav Ganguly from the Rest of India team for Irani trophy match (against Ranji champions Delhi), has received mixed reactions. Since Australian team is scheduled to visit India early next month for a Test series, the Irani trophy contest has obviously assumed lot of importance, and his omission virtually indicates that the former captain will not be in the test team.

While some critics have justified his omission, some others have wondered why only Ganguly has been singled out when performance of the others in Fab Four gang has been equally pedestrian by their standards. The comparative figures of performances of Dravid, Tendulkar, Ganguly and Laxman do underline this fact.
Fab Four since Jan 1, 2007
Name Matches Runs Average 100 50
Dravid 19 1148 35.87 2 6
Tendulkar 16 1287 49.50 4 7
Ganguly 19 1565 46.02 3 8
Laxman 17 1136 47.33 2 8

While looking at the above statistics, we have to take these facts in account: Tendulkar’s four centuries include two against Bangladesh, Ganguly hit one against Bangladesh and two against a lackluster Pakistan ( even Lahore Badshahs team in ICL was stronger than Shoib Malik’s official Pakistan team!) Dravid also helped himself to one in Bangladesh tour immediately after world cup debacle and then crawled his way to another at Chennai when Sehwag was blistering away against South Africa.

Collective failure of all of them against Sri Lanka was most appalling. More than the figures, the qualitative decline in their Cricket was clearly visible. One did not get to see the fighting Dravid, or an attacking Tendulkar. Nor did we see neither an exquisite Ganguly nor a fluent Laxman we are used to. The age is clearly catching on them. The question is - why do these greats refuse to accept this fact?

So, to me, why Ganguly, why not Dravid first? This debate is meaningless. Somebody is going to be the next. These four are all time masters of Indian Cricket. Indian Cricket lovers have great affection and respect for them. Hence, instead of facing the ignominy of being sacked, they should retire. One question comes to my mind. If Warne or McGrath voluntarily retire when on peak of their form why don’t Dravid, Tendulkar, ganguly or Laxman do so in spite of being woefully short of their best?

Friday, September 5, 2008

Should Dhoni be made Captain of India’s Test Cricket Team Too?

Mahendrasingh Dhoni’s string of successes as the captain of India’s ODI and T-20 team has won him many admirers. He was awarded this year’s Khel Ratna Award. Team’s South African Coach Gary Kirsten is the latest addition. Recently Kirsten has remarked that Mahendra Singh Dhoni is ready for Test captaincy as well.
Dhoni’s influential role in guiding the team to series win over Sri Lanka is in sharp contrast to the Test team’s dismal performance under Anil Kumble whose lack of form with the ball coincided with remarkable run of failures from fab four (Sachin, Dravid, Ganguly and Laxman). Anil Kumble did lead the side, both on and off the field, in Australia with dignity, but the result was a series loss. The limelight was stolen by Dhoni, as he became the first captain to win Tri Series down Under.
Kumble’s appointment was always going to be a stop gap arrangement in the situation arising out of Dravid’s resignation and Sachin’s reluctance to take over. His leadership is quite similar to his personality. Though he is one of the greatest cricketers, he certainly lacks the exuberance, flamboyance needed for a leader.
So Kirsten and many others have a reason to feel that Dhoni be given Test Captaincy. But we can’t forget that Dhoni’s success in T-20 world Cup, Tri series in Australia and recent series victory in Sri Lanka, all have been achieved by team that didn’t feature any of the fab four, and they, as of now, are permanent feature of Test team. So if Dhoni is made the captain of the team containing these underperforming superstars, who sadly are past their prime, will he be able to lead the side to victory against Ricky Ponting who is still smarting from the reversals earlier this year?
India’s recent ODI and T-20 feats have been achieved by a young middle order batting line-up comprising of Raina, Rohit Sharma, Yuvraj, Uthappa, and Badrinath. All of them respond to the captain’s call who himself leads by example. None of these would feature in Test team. Sachin, Dravid and co now a days seem to back away from the challenges, as was evident in Sri Lanka when they failed to master Mendis Magic. So Dhoni in charge of the team containing at least five veterans with tired legs is certainly not a combination to challenge Aussies who are out to seek revenge. So, bring in Dhoni and phase out the past masters. The question is: Will the selectors muster enough courage to do so?

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Should Politicians and Bureaucrats Control Sports Associations in India?

Recently concluded Olympics Games saw best ever performance by India, capturing 3 medals। But most of Indians are far from happy. Many critics are seen blaming politicians for the plight of Indian Sports. Even Abhinav Bindra, the lone Gold medalist in Beijing, has shown his displeasure about the sport administration in the country.

The politicians in charge of various sports associations however, are in no mood to budge। The justification and reason cited by Mr. Suresh Kalmadi, MP and President IOA for last seven years, is queer, to say the least. According to him, Sports bodies such as IOA need politicians because they are good at getting funds allocated from Sports ministry!

While it may be true, that because of their influence in the government, the political leaders can get funds, the question remains as to how much of the money is actually put into development of talent? What Mr.Kalmadi is referring to is the development of facilities for ensuing Commonwealth Games in New Delhi. Here one must remember how huge money was invested at the time of Asiad in 1982. The Indraprastha and Talkatora Stadiums now lay in very bad shape primarily because of under-utilization. For Mr. Kalmadi and others sports administration is merely attending high profile meetings and taking some ridiculous decisions which are only causing harm to sports in India.
Excellence in sports today is directly related to international clout of a nation. China understood it long ago. The world is flabbergasted by the strides made by China, but a well planned and professional approach for more than two decades has made it possible. It should indeed be an eye opener for authorities in India. Some very harsh decisions will be needed to be taken for this plight to change.

Mr. Kalmadi, Mr. Das Munshi, Mr. V K Malhotra etc, who are heading various sports associations, are all professional politicians, hence they excel in politics. But they are amateur sports administrators. No wonder they have not excelled in this role. Quite clearly, sports bodies need target oriented professionals who will be accountable. Unless that happens, India will continue to lag way behind the world super powers in sports.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

TOP TEN : Upsets at Beijing Olympics

At the recently concluded Olympics games, China surged far ahead of USA in the gold medals race. Michel Phelps became All Time Great by capturing eight Gold medals in swimmimg, whereas Ussain Bolt set the track on fire by his electric runs in 100 and 200 meter sprints. Even though these are the three major highlights of this Olympics, none of them were entirely unexpected. This Olympics was full of drama, emotion, heartbreaks and upsets. Here is my pick on the most surprising results (not necessarily in the order of magnitude of surprise) at Beijing.

  • Ever since Liu Xiang claimed victory in the 110-m hurdles in Athens, he has been China's super hero. In Beijing, Liu, was the poster boy for China's mighty Olympic squad. For millions of Chinese Liu fans, a gold medal in Beijing was a must , and if he couldn't, all of his previous achievements would become meaningless. Unfortunately his ankle injury aggravated at wrong time and he had to withdraw at the last minute. The anguish on faces of his supporters was evident. A huge heartbreak for Lui lovers. [back]
    In the build up to Beijing games, the 100 meter sprint competition was billed as tussle between Tyson Gay, Asafa Powell and Ussain Bolt. Ironically, gay lost in semi finals. Powell was nowhere in medal list. In fact Bolt won both 100 and 200 meter races with ridiculous ease. Even the 4X100 relay was also a huge disappointment as US team was eliminated in semi finals. [back]
    Roger Federer had come to Beijing on the back of humiliating defeats in French open and Wimbledon at the hands of Rafael Nadal. So, a fierce fight for gold between the two was anticipated by many. Federer instead, bowed out in the quarter finals itself. Meanwhile, Nadal continued his remarkable run by adding Olympics gold in his kitty. Federer, though stung by the loss, came back strongly to clinch gold in doubles event. Indian pair of Lee-Hesh had to suffer at his hands. [back]
    There were big upsets in both Men's and women's semi finals of Hockey. Australian team (Men)was in great form till it ran into Spaniards. German men won the Gold medal but their women counterparts, who were defending champions, lost to China in semis. China's dash to the finals in Hockey is most astonishing. Remember, Chinese men beat India and Pakistan in Doha Asiad two years ago? [back]
    For many years now, USA is the powerhouse in Sprints. US teams (Men and Women) in 100 meter relay were firm favourites. But surprisingly, both teams were disqualified for faulty baton exchange, the most basic requirement in relay race. I remember how Indian team (women) in 1988 was criticised for dropping the baton. But it happens to the most professional teams too you know! Curiously, the Baton dropping bug also caught up with Jamaican women. Fortunately, Bolt could hand the baton fluently to Powell for Jamaica to win men's gold. [back]
    Great Britain's impressive performance was another surprise. Last time, it was lying at the 10th spot. Here, they overtook more fancied countries like Australia and Germany with 19 gold medals. Most of English success came in cycling and Sailing. Next Olympics Games are in London. Who knows, like China here, Great Britain might use its home advantage for still better results. [back]
    Brazil, in its illustrious football history has one blemish. Despite winning five world cups, it is still luckless when it comes to winning Olympics gold. Ronaldinho had embarked on the mission Gold Medal, but he bumped into Messi's Argentine flourish. Argentina were far too good. So for Brazil, the wait continues. [back]
    One of the most astonishing turnarounds took place in diving competition. On the last jump, Mathew Mitcham , of Australia, was trailing by 35 points in 10 meter platform event. When all seemed lost, the Australian produced an unbelievable dive to win gold by 3 points, and in turn deny the Chinese team a clean sweep of medals in diving. Incidentally, Gay, Tyson that is, failed to win, but Mathew, who openly acknowledges to be gay, succeeded!
    India upset sixteen countries to claim 50th spot in ranking compared to 66th last time! For a country that is starved of sporting Heroes outside Cricket, the success of the trio, Bindra, Sushil and Vijender is being hailed as path breaking. It remains to be seen if this new found awareness about Boxing, Wrestling and other Olympics sports is sustained or is quickly forgotten by the onslaught of T-20 IPL! [back]

    Monday, August 25, 2008

    Memorable Olympics Sports Extravaganza concludes

    29th Olympics Games had commenced sixteen days ago with a spectacular opening ceremony. Today, they were concluded with equally grand closing ceremony. China, the hosts clearly dominated the games winning whopping 51 gold medals, easily beating USA in the race for top spot.
    Many pundits had predicted that China would use the 'home advantage' to topple USA. But the margin of its dominance is astounding. China retained its supremacy in Diving, Gymnastics, Table Tennis, Badminton, Weightlifting, and shooting. It also showed its prowess in some of non-traditional sports such as Rowing, Fencing, Trampoline caneoing and kyaking etc. Chinese women won silver in hockey, Bronze in Tennis. Apart from Athletics, china dominated in most of the disciplines. China's emergence as the top sporting superpower is certainly the most important highlight of this edition of Olympics.
    USA team officials would be disappointed despite winning 110 medals. They missed out on some sure gold medals. Jamaica robbed them of at least five gold medals in athletics. The most shocking was 'Baton dropping' by men and women in 100 meter relay. Loss of Brayan brothers in Tennis doubles, failure of Felix Alison in women sprints were disappointing. Basketball teams (Men and women) did redeem themselves. But for Michel Phelps, USA performance would have been even poorer.
    Michel Phelps and Ussain Bolt were undoubtedly the Superheroes of this Olympics. Both have achieved stupendous feats. While Phelps obtained eight swimmimg gold medals, most by any sportsperson in single Olympics, Bolt achieved a Golden Double in sprints with world Record timimgs in addition to leading Jamaican relay team to Gold medal. The images of calm and confident Phelps, and exuberent and flamboyant Bolt will continue to linger in the memories for a long time.
    One of the major upsets in this Olympics was Federer's loss in Mens' Tennis although he won the doubles Gold. Rafael Nadal's fantastic run of form got him the gold medal. Brazil's defeat in Football was also a blow to aspirations of Ronaldhino. This Olympics also saw end of a glorious era for Haile Gebrselassie, the great long distance runner from Ethiopia.
    It was a historic Olympics for India. First ever individual gold medal, followed by two more bronze medals, the most won by Indian contingent in a single Olympics event. The achievemtns of Bindra, Sushilkumar and Vijender have received wide coverage in the media. It has also aroused great interest about Olympics sports. One only hopes that the authorities will capitalise on this new found interest and go about in a more organised manner for preparations of 2012 London Games. Unless there is a radical change towards Sports as treated by government and society, Indian public will have to be content with individual brilliance of a few athletes who have excelled this time.

    Thursday, August 21, 2008

    Lightening Bolt Strikes Twice

    While the first half of Beijing Games was dominated by Michel Phelps, in the last few days the limelight is entirely on Ussain Bolt. Phelps has certainly become an all time great by winning eight gold medals in a single Olympics. However, Bolt's feat of winning the Golden double, that too by beating world Records in both events, at a single Olympics is equally incredible if not more. Like Phelps, Bolt too has assured himself a place in Olympics history.

    Before the start of Games, sprinting supremacy was supposed to be a three way tussle between Bolt, Asafa Powell and Tyson Gay. Bolt was even quoted as not being sure if he would run both the sprints as 200 meter sprint was his more preferred race. Gay, though could not even make it to the finals on Sunday. Powell too, was nowhere in medal rankings of 100 meters sprints. In fact, Bolt made it ridiculously easy. Usually short distance races are decided by photo finish. But Bolt had won by a fair distance. so much so that had he not relaxed a bit in last few strides, his world record time would have been lesser than 9.69 sec by quite a margin.
    It was another memorable evening on Wednesday at National Stadium in Beijing for 200 meter finals. Unlike the 100 m dash, Bolt got strongly off the blocks and sped away of the pack. It was one of the most astonishing spectacle of 19.30 sec. Lightening Bolt had literally set the track on fire. The images of excited Bolt breaking into samba dance will continue to linger in the minds on nearly hundred thousand spectators in the stadium and many more like me in front of Television who were fortunate to witness the lightening strike Beijing.

    Just as the race, the build up to the dash in which Bolt is participating is also a treat to watch. The way he gets ready at the blocks, his mannerisms and gestures to the public are so entertaining. His nonchalance reminds me of another West Indian, Viv Richards whose swaggering entry on the Cricket field used to charge the atmosphere. No wonder Bolt initially tried his hand to be a fast bowler.

    Sunday, August 17, 2008

    Olympics Hockey without India

    Hockey is celebrating its Hundred years in Olympics. Ironically, India, the country that has won most number of gold medals, does not feature in this edition of Olympics. India's steady decline in world rankings has started in 1976. KPS Gill's regime at IHF performed the last rites of Indian Hockey before he being overthrown by another GILL, MS the sports minister.
    Common Indian sports enthusiast quickly got over India's absence as suddenly India has found new sporting Heroes in Bindra and Boxing trio of Akhil, Vijender and Jitender. So much so, that despite Hockey being our national game, hardly anybody seems to be following what is happening in Hockey matches at Beijing. There is virtually no coverage of Hockey on TV or Newspaper media. So, here's presenting a brief review of Hockey at Beijing.

    Asian Hockey is represented by Korea, Pakistan and hosts China. Sadly Pakistan Hockey is also facing similar downslide. Having lost to Britain and top ranked Australia, it will be extremely difficult for Pakistan team to enter Semifinals from B group which also has strong Netherlands.

    Korea on the other hand is still keeping Asian flag afloat by drawing against Germany. This group A is witnessing keen tussle for second semifinal births between Korea, Germany and New Zealand, with Spain on top. A few keen tussles between Korea Vs Spain and New Zealand Vs Germany on Tuesday will be decisive. On form Australia are overwhelming favourites to beat Netherlands for Gold Medal. The final is scheduled on 23rd Aug. (points table as on Sun Aug 17)

    Many Hockey followers like me wonder if Indian hockey will see the glorious days of past again. The bickerings amongst the Hockey administrators are at all time high. There was some hope of revival when Ric charlseworth came to India to offer helping hand. But how he was literally humiliated and kept away from the team in Qualifiers tournment is well known. A frustrated Charlesworth has given up and is slated to join Australian Hockey team as its coach.

    So this is the second Australian Indian sport has ill-treated. The unfortunate sacking of Greg Chappell by BCCI is still fresh in the memory. It is often argued that a foreign coach is not suitable for Indian teams consisting of players from different states and different cultural background. But look at what Indian Football team coach Houghton has achieved. India's victory at recently concluded AFC Cup could well be the turning point for Indian football. While there seem to be no hope for Indian Hockey's revival, Indian Football is all set to reach newer heights.

    Friday, August 15, 2008

    One Billion - One Medallion

    Abhinav Bindra has given a 'Golden Gift' to his own countrymen on the occasion of Independence Day. His Gold medal winning performance is surely the greatest moment in history of Indian sports since independence. The country is showering all the accolades on him and rightly so.

    We hear some outrageous reactions being given by the sports officials like Mr kalmadi of IOA. The other day he was seen claiming a turn around in India's performance at international level after this success. Well, this is hardly likely to happen, at least in near future. Because, even in this euphoria of first ever gold, one can not overlook certain stark realities.

    One must not forget that the success achieved by Abhinav is entirely on his own. Of course his financially strong family stood in good stead. But neither the shooting Federation of India, nor Indian Olympic Association and certainly not the officials like Mr Kalmadi have a slightest contribution in his success. Hence Mr Kalmadi and others need not congratulate themselves on Bindra's achievement. Rajyawardhan Rathore, the Athens Hero too benifited from the fact that he is an armyman. Sania Mirza, Paes and Bhupati, Vishwanathan Anand, Jeev Milkha Singh.. all these sportpersons have come in to prominence by their own dedication and backed by family support. The efforts on individual levels are bound to result in medals few and far in between. For a large scale success, a planned and large scale effort on governmental and organisational level is necessary. China is now reaping the fruits of rigourous and concentrated hard work for more than three decades.

    So, the the hopes of inspired performances from other Indian atheletes in Beijing have quickly evaporated. A feeble hope still rests on Paes-Bhupati. But, it seems as though the tag of 'One Medal country' will continue to stick with India until next Olympics!!

    Wednesday, August 13, 2008

    Left Is Right!

    Aug 13 is celebrated as Left Handers' Day. In the world dominated by right handers, the left handed community is a small minority. In many countries including India, left handed ness is still looked down. the word 'left' itself is attched with a smack of negivitism and inferiority.
    But like in many fields, left handers have carved a special nitche in the world of sports. Sir Gary sobers, the greatest cricketer to have played the game, has with his left handed batting and bowling prowess dominated the sixties. The elegent David Gower, indomitable Alan Border, lethal Wasim Akram, artistic Bishan Bedi, flamboyant Brian Lara are some examples of left handed greats to have played Cricket.
    Left handed Tennis players have a unique flair. Tempermental McEnroe , legendary Martina Navratilova and more currently Rafael Nadaal are some of the most popular sportspersons.
    Recently, an online poll was conducted to nominate the most popular Left hander of the World. US Presidential candidate Barack Obama won the poll overtaking some of the prominent personalities including Anjolina Juile among others.

    Tuesday, August 12, 2008

    Olympics Gold Fails to Inspire Indian Cricketers

    This surely is the most important moment in independent India's sporting history. Abhinav Bindra became the first Indian to win an Olympics gold medal in an individual event. One only hopes that his stupendous achievement becomes a trendsetter for many more laurels to the country.
    After rather disappointing beginning to Beijing Olympics, an early morning news of Bindra's success today was a pleasant surprise to Indian fans. As the nation started pouring adulation on him, Saina Nehwal put up inspired performance to enter quarterfinals of Ladies Badminton by beating a more fancied opponent from Hong Kong. All eyes will be on her as she tries to enter the medal round tomorrow.
    Abinav's golden feat, however, failed to inspire the high-profile Indian Cricketers as they surrendered rather meekly to SriLanka in third Test at Colombo. The star studded Indian Team was tamed single handedly by a newcomer Lankan spinner, Ajantha Mendis. The Fab Foursome of Sachin, Dravid, Ganguly and Laxman fell miserably. Kumble was well below his best. Is it really time to bid good bye to some of these heavyweights?

    Friday, August 8, 2008

    Cricket in Olympics?

    Formal inauguration of Beijing Olympics is just a few hours away.The organisers claim that the spectators in the Stadium and the TV audience is going to experience one of the grandest ever opening ceremonies in the history of sports. Live telecast of the opening ceremony beginning at 1730 Hrs. IST.
    Competitions though, have already begun two days ago.Ladies Football matches commenced with china starting on winning note and US team faltering in opening fixture. In coming two weeks, the race for medals between these two nations is surely going to be close one.
    In India, there is hardly any enthusiasm about the Olympics Games of this year. But Olympics of year 2020 are in news from now itself. Adam Gilchrist recently advocated inclusion of Twenty-20 Cricket in 2020 Olympics. He found instant takers in India. India just a few months ago won the inaugural T-20 Cricket World Cup. Cricket has huge following in India. Cricketers enjoy tumultuous popularity. And, even though only a handful of countries play Cricket, performance of many of Indian Cricketers is termed as 'World Class'. No wonder Indian Cricket lovers backed this idea with a hope that at least in 2020, India stands a chance of winning a Gold medal!. Some enthusiasts even went to extent of asking Indian Govt to exert international pressure on IOC for inclusion of Cricket in Olympics so that India can win its first ever Olympics Gold!!
    Seriously though, it is not going to be easy to press for inclusion of Cricket. Even a T-20 match takes about four hours to complete. Besides a world wide acceptance to Cricket is certainly not there. But one thing is for sure. Even if Cricket does get entry in Olympics, it would be no surprise if the first gold is bagged by China, Korea or US instead of India, Pakistan or Sri Lanka!!
    The Games have already started on a disastrous note for India. Lone weightlifter in the contingent, Monika Devi had could not board plane to Beijing on grounds of failing doping test. It will be difficult for the other team members and management to keep composure and perform creditably. Let us hope that India contingent puts its best ever performance and re tuns home with improved medal count. Best of Luck India!

    Sunday, August 3, 2008

    Beijing Games : Contenders of Success

    This Olympics at Beijing is widely tipped to be the most competitive in the history. There is huge amount of interest about the country winning maximum medals and number of records to be broken. In every edition of the Games, a few athletes attract attention. Their performance arouses huge expectations amongst sports lovers across the world. Here is a brief introduction to some of the 'superstars' of Beijing Games.
    Brazil's Football team : Despite winning the world cup five times, the flamboyant south American nation has not been able to win a gold medal at the Olympics. this time big guns like Ronaldinho and Robinho are in their ranks. Clearly Brazil team is out to put the record straight.
    Basketball Team (USA) : After the success of Dream Team' in 1992, USA team is failing to win 15th gold in Basketball. Two of NBA superstars of today, Kobe Brayant and Lebron Jones are present in American team which hopes to bring back the glory.
    Men's singles Tennis : There is fierce rivalry between Nadal(Spain) and Federer(Switzerland) in last few months. Nadal has just overtaken Federer in ATP rankings. With this background, Beijing is expected to see high voltage clash between the two for Gold medal.
    100 meters sprint : This is always the most glamorous event at Olympics. the winner is aptly called 'the fastest man on the Earth'. This time there is a three way contest. American Tyson Gay faces stiff challenge from tow Jamaicans - Asafa Powell and Usain Bolt who is the current record holder (9.72 sec)
    Michel Phelps(USA). this 23 year swimmer has set for himself a stiff target as he aims to beat the feat achieved by Mark Spitz forty years ago. Spitz became first swimmer to win seven gold medals in single Olympics. Phelps intends to do one better, Best of Luck to him!
    Liu Xiang (China) : He is clearly the athlete under most pressure from his countrymen to win gold. Four years ago he became China's first and only gold medalist in Athletics when he won 110 metre Hurdles. People of china desperately want him to retain the gold medal.
    Taufik Hidayat (Indonesia) : at Athens Games in 2004, Hidayat ruined Chinese party. He thwarted China's clean sweep of Golds in Badmington. This time though, a young and flamboyant Lin Dan looks to wrest the men's gold medal.
    Bernard Lagat : This time USA contingent has quite a few athletes who have in the past represented other countries at the Olympics. Lagat represented Kenya when he won 1500 metre and 5000 metre races in Athens. It remains to be seen how he performs as a US citizen.
    These superstars along with many other athletes will try their best to make their country proud. So let us enjoy the Beijing games and hope that a stray medal comes India's way too!