Sunday, November 29, 2009

TOP TEN : India's Best Test Victories

Indian team's comprehensive win over Sri Lanka at Green Park a couple of days ago was its 100th in Test Cricket. It took 20 years for India to register its first win. But in last 20 years, Indian team has been fairly consistent ( being ranked at top of ICC rankings is the testimony). Here is an attempt to enlist top ten victories registered by Indian team. Havin been an avid follower of Indian Cricket for over 35 years, most of these wins (barring first two) are itched in the memory. So, in a way, this is a trip down the memory lane. Readers can choose to differ with my selection. They are welcome to express their choice here. Here's my pick:

1. Vs England at Chepauk, Madras 6-11 Feb 1952
India’s first test victory. Spearheaded by vinoo Mankad’s 12 wickets in the match and centuries by Pankaj Roy and Polly Umrigar. Vijay Hazare was India’s first winning captain.
England 266 (Robertson 77, V.mankad 8/55) and 183 ( Robertson 56, V Mankad 4/53) lost to India 457 (P.Roy 111, P.Umrigar 130*) by Innings and 8 runs.

2. Vs new Zealand at Dunedin 15-21 Feb 1968
India’s first victory on foreign soil. Marked the beginning of era of spin quartet. Superb batting by Ajit Wadekar in both innings and Erapalli Prasanna’s 6/94 were the highlights of the match. Captain MAK Pataudi
NZ 350 ( Dowling 143, Abid ali 4/26) and 204 (Murray 54, Prasanna 6/94) lost to India 359 (Wadekar 80, Motz 5/80) and 5/200 (Wadekar 71, alabaster 6/48) by 5 wickets.

3. Vs West Indies at Port Of Spain Trinidad March 1971
An upset victory by underdogs India over mighty West Indian team led by Gary Sobers. India’s emerging hero Sunil Gavaskar guided the team to emphatic 7 wicket victory aided by veteran Dilip Sardesai’s century in first innings and Off Spin duo of Prasanna and Venkatraghavan. Captain Ajit Wadekar
WI 214 ( David 71, Prasanna 4/54) and 261 (R.Fredrics 80, S.Venkat 5/95) lost to India 352 (D.Sardesai 112, s.Gavaskar 65, J Noreiga 9/95) and 125/3 (S.Gavaskar 67*) by 7 wickets

4. Vs West Indies at Eden Gardens Calcutta 27-31 Jan 1975
India, down 0-2 in the series staged a dramatic comeback with the help of heroics by G.R.Vishvanath who scored a match winning hundred in the second Inninings. S.Madan Lal made an impressive debut as all rounder. Bedi and Chandra were stars with the ball in demolition of WI. Captain MAK PAtaudi
India 233 (G Vishvanath 52, Andy Roberts 5/50) and 316 (G.Vishvanath 139, Roberts 3/88) beat WI 240 (r.Fredricks 100, Madanlal 4/22) and 224 (Kalicharan 57,B.S.Bedi 4/52) by 85 runs.

5 Vs West Indies at Port of Spain 7-12 Apr 1975
This is one of the golden moments in the history of Indian test cricket. Chasing a mammoth total of 404 in the fourth innings, was achieved only once before. But a soild beginning by Sunil Gavaskar followed by scintillating century by another little master Vishvanath helped India achieve the world record. Captain BS Bedi
WI 359 (Richards 177, Chandra 6/120) and 271/6 (Kallicharan 103*, Venkat 3/65) lost to India 228 (Vishvanath 41, M.Holding 6/65) and 406/4 (S.Gavaskar 102, G.Vishvanath 112) by 6 wickets.

6. Vs Pakistan at Chennai 16-20 Jan 1980
Captain Sunil Gavaskar’s masterly century and Kapil Dev’s superb all round show helped India register a decisive win over the arch rivals Pakistan which was a strong side under Asif Iqbal. Kapil Dev’s incisive bowling (4/90 and7/56) and boisterous 84 in the first innings was the highlight of this match.
Pakistan 272 (Majid Khan 56, Kapil Dev 4/90) and 233 (Wasim Raja 57, Kapil Dev 7/56) lost to India 430 (S.Gavaskar 166, Imran khan 5/114) and 78/0 (C.chauhan 46*) by 10 wickets.

7. Vs Aus at Eden Gardens Calcutta 11-15 Jan 2001
In one of the most extraordinary turnarounds in the history of test Cricket, India, following on after a first inning deficit of 274 runs, staged a remarkable recovery through VVS Laxman (281) and Rahul Dravid (180). Off spinner Harbhajan Singh’s performance of 13 wickets in the match (including first ever hat-trick by an Indian) was instrumental in breaking Australia’s world record winning streak. Captain S.Ganguly
Australia 445 (s.Waugh 110, Harbhajan singh 7/123) and 212 (M.Hayden 67, Harbhajan singh 6/73) lost to India 171 (VVS Laxman 59, g.McGrath 4/18) and 657/7 (VVS Laxman 281, R.Dravid 180) by 171 runs.

8. Vs Pakistan at Multan 28-31 March 2004
This win has a special place in every Indian’s heart. It was India’s first win in Pakistan. Virender Sehwag scored first triple hundred for India. A minor controversy following acting captain Dravid’s declaration in spite of Tendulkar batting at 194 was quickly forgotten as Anil Kumble wrapped Pakistan’s second innings well short of Innigs defeat. Captain R.Dravid
India 675/6 (v.Sehwag, S.Tendulkar 194*) beat Pakistan 407 (Y.Hameed 91, I.Pathan 4/100) and 216 ( Y.Youhana 112, a.Kumble 6/72)

9. Vs. South Africa at Johannesburg 15-18 Dec 2006
One of the best away victories of Indian team. On a seamer friendly pitch, India beat the South Africans at their own game. S.Shreesanth, the eccentric medium pacer from Kerala took 8 wickets in the low scoring match in which the hosts were bundled out on a platry 84. Captain R.Dravid
India 249 (VVS Laxman 51, SM Pollock 4/39) and 236 (VVS Laxman 73, SM Pollock 3/33) beat South Africa 84 ( A.Prince 24, S.ShreeSanth 5/40) and 278 (A.Prince 97, A. Kumble 3/54) by 123 runs.

10. Vs. Australia at Perth 16-19 Jan 2008
This victory was remarkable for more than one reasons. Firstly, an unprecedented controversy that erupted during the previous match at Sydney where Harbhajan was accused of racial abuse and un-sportsmanlike behaviour by Ponting’s men. Secondly, Australia had never lost at Perth since 1996.And India once again broke Aussie winning streak. Captain Anil Kumble.
India 330 (R.Dravid 93, M.Johnson 4/86) and 294 (VVS Laxman 79, S.Clark 4/61) beat Australia 212 (A.Symonds 66, RP Singh 4/68) and 340 (M.Clarke 81, I.Pathan 3/54)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Cricket and Congress!

Cricket in India enjoys tremendous popularity. Cricket and Cricket administrators are often accused of thwarting the growth of other sports in India. While this is far from the truth, I find popularity of Cricket in India is strikingly similar to support Congress party gets in India. Both are thriving in this country primarily because there competitors aren’t faring any better. Let us analyse the situation in little more depth.

Congress of course is the first political party formed in India. With the stalwarts like Tilak, Gandhi and Nehru as its leaders, it naturally enjoyed huge support from the citizen which led to independence. After independence though, many national and regional parties came into existence. But, barring few years, Congress has been the party which has been in power for most of the period. So, even after nearly 60 years, Congress has a nation wide appeal.

Cricket too, has been immensely popular right from the days of Pentangular tournaments. Other sports did have patches have dominance. Like Hockey enjoyed its golden age in Fifties and Sixties. Tennis too had reached its peak in late Sixties when India reached Davis Cup final twice. Indian football was in its prime in 1962 Asiad and 1960 Olympics. But leave apart these aberrations and you find Cricket ruling the hearts of Indian fans continuously.

So what is it in Cricket as also Congress that keeps people interested? Does the Congress have better leaders than opposition? Are the policies of Congress more pro-people than the opposition? Are Cricketers more talented than other sportspersons? Is BCCI more transparent than other sporting bodies?

The fact is that both are thriving by default. The people of India every now and then throw the mandate towards Congress more out of disgust towards opposition than as an endorsement of policies and programs of Congress. Similarly, Cricket catches people’s imagination primarily because of anarchy that prevails in conduct of other sports.

Congress too is a divided house like the opposition. Similarly BCCI also has a long history of bitter power struggle. But it all boils down to choosing a lesser evil. It is not that the chances didn’t come to the counterpart. In politics, people of India gave chance to non-congress formations for at least three times only to be disillusioned. Similarly, in sports too, glory in non-cricketing sports did come a couple of times. India won Hockey World Cup in 1975. But rather than captalising on it the Indian Hockey Federation killed itself by the infighting. Indian football team reached semi finals of Olympics in 1956, but then the interests of club owners overpowered the national interests. So the people of India had to put their faith and backing to Indian Cricketers who won the world cup in 1983. The shrewd marketers like Dalmiya and now Lalit Modi have since seen to it that Cricket become an enterprise and the global nerve centre of Cricket.

In politics, they say that there are no permanent enemies. Politicians are known to protect mutual interests of friends even in opposition. Same here in BCCI where we find an Arun Jaitley of BJP siding with NCP supreme Sharad Pawar and Congress spokesman Rajeev Shukla and National Conference leader Farooq Abdulla all belonging to different parties. So what is the real truth? Is the politics like a game of Cricket OR Is Cricket is the political Akhada?

This article also appeared on

Monday, November 9, 2009

Are Medals More Important Than Morals?

The demon of doping is omnipresent all over the sporting world. Cheating the competitors and spectators is so prevalent, even today, WADA monitoring notwithstanding. But the revelation of the large scale 'state administered doping' by the former East Germany (GDR) and the sordid tale of Heidi Kreiger is shocking to say the least.

Heidi was one of the superstar athletes from former GDR. She was crowned European Shot Put champion in 1986. But soon she started feeling the after effects of testosterone hormone abuse, which had left all the traits of a man. She started feeling 'increasingly foreign' within her on body and ultimately had to go for sex change operation. Heidi died and Andreas was born in 1997.

From 1968 to 1988, East Germany , a tiny communist country, participated in 11 Olympics, Summer and Winter, and won a whopping 519 medals including 192 Gold medals. All these years, the athletes were subjected to state organized doping program - known as State Plan 14.25 - that made GDR to second spot in medals tally of Olympics (Seoul 1988). But the glory that nation achieved was on the unethical and inhuman torture of citizens of own country.

The chilling after effects of the drug abuse are now increasingly coming to the fore in athletes of that time as they are now nearing age of 50 and can no more withstand the drug induced anomalies in their bodies. It is estimated that nearly 10,000 athletes were the part of the 'state plan' and stories of sufferings will come up more and more. Andreas, who now runs a clothes shop, alleges that the unified Germany is still using the knowledge of former GDR coaches to manufacture champions although the practice can not be as blatant with stricter anti-doping policies now in place.

The virus of doping has penetrated Indian sports too. Indian weightlifters, especially women have been notorious in this regard and recently served out ban for Indian women weightlifters being found guilty at Athens Olympics, Indians obviously fare poorly in sports at international level. But to use such unethical means for fame is not acceptable by people with clear conscience. Obviously morals are more important than medals.

This article first appeared on

Friday, October 23, 2009

Is it Worth Spending Rs 3000 Cr. on Commonwealth Games?

The Commonwealth Games scheduled to be held in New Dehi next year in October are embroiled in one dispute after another. After the environment related issues regarding construction of Games village, then comes the stand off between the Organising committee and the Federation itself. Mr Suresh Kalmadi, the IOA president who is also the chief of the Organising committee, is having a running feud with Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) CEO Mike Hooper.

Amidst all this a question comes to mind whether it is worth to spend such a huge money for the conduct of CG? The budget of commonwealth Games 2010 is more than 3000 Cr. Of course, renovated and modern sports facillities will be erected in New Delhi. But like in 1982, these faillities are only likely to be underutilized. Secondly how important are the commonwealth Games in the world context? With the US and China not being a part of commonwealth, the standard of the Games is far too inferior. In a way these games are no different than the SAF Games or Afro-Asian Games which are of no significance. India routinely bags heaps of medals in in these Games. But where does India stand in olympics?

In fact, holding Commonwealth Games is redundent now as the Commonwealth doesn't exist. the days of world wide British empire are long gone. Most of the participating countries are independent and only a few countries have the British King as the constitutional Head. India for instance is a soverign country trying to emerge as a superpower. Is that the reason for the stand off between the Organising committe and CGF that the CGF is unable to tolerate India's emergence as strong nation?

Sunday, October 18, 2009

T-20 bubble busted : No Indian Team in Semifinals of Champions League

The on-going Champions League T-20 has put the popularity of shortest version of Cricket in India in right perspective. The competition was slotted so as to encash the Diwali festive season. But the tournament has truned into a damp squib both in terms of stadium audeience and TV viewership. In the preliminaries, the matches involving Non-Indian teams, the response was poor, whereas for even for matches involving Indian clubs - Challengers, Chargers and DareDevils, the frenzy that all of us witnessed at the time of IPL-I was missing. Lalit Modi must have realised that you can't sell anything to Indian public in the name of Cricket.

What the Champions League is missing from earlier IPLs is the filmi flavour. With their teams not in the fray, the scenes of the filmi team owners SRK, Preity Zinta and Shilpa Shetty charming the audience are no more there. The teams that were the part of champions League - and none of them has progressed to semifinals - Challengers, chargers and Devils - don't have that glamour content.

Chargers, IPL-II winners were knocked out in preliminary round itself while neither Challengers nor Delhi Daredevils could go through from League A. The phase of lacklustre performances by members of current Indian team continued as they could not take their respective teams further. How will the semifinals and final be received by the spectators and TV audience - is anybody's guess.

The tournament has busted another myth created by IPL success - that India has rich talemt of up-coming Cricketers. The so-called emerging talent of Indian teams failed miserably. In contrast, teams from south Africa and Australia have shown tremandous depth. The surprise package really has been Trinidad and Tobaggo. Inspite of tremandous turbulence in domestic Cricket of West Indies, the T & T outfit has displayed impressive talent in the form of Simmins, Pollard, Bravo brothers and Ganga brothers with captaincy of Darren Ganga being a revelation. The victory of T&T versus NSW was stunning. don't be surprised if Calypso dance is performed after the finals!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Obama Gets IOC Snub : 2016 Olympics in Land of Samba - Rio de Janeiro

Neither the charishma of Obamas nor Winfery could win Chicago the honour to host 2016 Olympics. Instead, an emtionally charged appeal by Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva resulted in a historical decision by IOC delegates : Olympics going to a Latin American country for the first time!

So last year it was humiliation at the hands of China at Beijing Olympics and now comes another embarrassment for US - losing Olympics bid to a third world country. Other contenders, Tokyo and Madrid too could not muster enough support as the delegates voted overwhelmingly in favour of Samba Land.

Even before the event started, success of last year's Beijing Olympics was never i doubt. It remains to be seen if Brazil, whose economy is not as strong as China's, also is able to stage the Games as successfully. But developing countries have in past done this fairly satisfactorily. South Korea made 1988 Seul Games a grand success even in pre-globalisation era.

Brazil has had a moderate success in Olympics over the years. Last year it had won 15 medals. It is a force to recon with in volletball, Basketball and sailimg. Ironically, multiple world champions have failed to win Olympics gold in Football. May be the Football crazy country's first gold will come in front of its own people!

BRIC : This term is being recently used to denote a group of fast growing economies in the world - comprising of Brazil, Russia, India and China. While Russia (formerly part of USSR) and China have hosted Olympics and Brazil due to host one in 2016, can we Indians ever hope to expereince the greatest sporting carnival being conducted in our country? Well, the way IOA (Indian olympics Association) is huffing and puffing its way to ensuing CommonWealth Games, it seems highly unlikely in near future!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Without Leander and Mahesh - India Reach World Group of Davis Cup

Most successful Indian Davis Cupper - Leander Paes - representing the country for two decades opts out of the team because of injury. Paes-Bhupati, one of the world's top doubles teams is not appearing. Bhupati unable to complete his match because of injury. But still Indian team makes it to the world group after a gap of eleven years. That's thanks to the new star rising on Indian Tennis horizon - Somdev Devwarman!

The scene was very bleak exactly a year ago when Indian team lost badly to Romania in the play-off tie and it looked as if India's re-entry in World Group may not be possible in near future. Things went from bad to worse. Advancing age of Paes and Bhupati added to their advancing rift, which led to player revolt resulting in none too impressive performances of the team in preliminary rounds. Suddenly things started to change. Somdev's improved performance on ATP curcuit, Yuki Bhambri's consistency in Junior tournaments gave the Indian fans a ray of hope. Then came a stroke of luck. Australia decided to boycott the zonal semifinal against India which enabled India the right to contest the play-off.

India's convincing 4-1 win over South Africa is significant in many ways. First of course is the arrival of Somdev. India always had players who relished Davis Cup environment. Dramatic fightback by Somdev in the return singles is surely going to be talked of in the years to come. His performance was on the backdrop of his spirited fight in second round of US open earlier this month against a top-twenty player.

India also seems to have found the answer to the haunting question : Who after Leander? Leander's contribution to India's Davis cup campaign is that he was a successful singles players too. In Rohan Bopanna, we now have a good singles player who is good enough in doubles. Plus ther's a promising Yuki Bhambri.

India's journey in the World group is definitely going to be very tough. But this outfit is definitely capable of throwing another surprise. The responsibility is on young shoulders of Somdev. India till now knew of two Devwarmans from Tripura - the legendery father - son duo of Sachin and Rahul Devwarman. Hailing from the same Royal Family, Somdev has certainly done his home state proud.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Truimph of Paes in Proper Perspective

No Indian has ever gone beyond semifinals of Singles competition of any Grand Slam Tennis tournament. No Indian has ever been ranked in top 10 in Singles rankings. Currently, there is no Indian player in top 100 too. Lender Paes and Mahesh Bhupati, on the other hand have won 21 grand slam doubles titles between them. Paes just recently collected his 10th title at US Open when he won in an emotinally charged encounter against Bhupati-Knowles combination.

How can one explain the Indian Success in doubles vis-a-vis lacklustre show in singles? India always had good doubles combinations. Premjit Lal - Jaydeep Mukharjee was among the best in the sixties. Amritraj brothers too excelled in Davis Cup matches. In the last thirty years India could produce just two world class singles players - Vijay Amritraj and Ramesh Krishnan, both of whom promised much but rarely delivered. Leander too, started off his singles career with a lot of promise, even winning Olympic Bronze medal. But, probably realising that his chances in singles are limited, Paes and Bhupati turned to doubles for better financial prospects. In early part of this decade, they formed a potent combination, and even now, advancing age notwithstanding, both are in top teams with their respective partners.

Top international Singles players rarely indulge in doubles play. With exception of McEnroe and Edberg, none of the top ten players in last two decades ventured in doubles. That leaves the field open for lesser players to thrive. If you look at the successful doubles players, the Woodies, the Blacks, Brians, Sanchez brothers, none of them were top-notch singles players. Success of McEnroe with Peter Fleming in Eighties shows that exceptional Singles player can excel at doubles too. Recently Roger Federer too also underlined this by winning Olympics doubles title. Even in the ladies the Williams sisters, both brilliant Singles players, are combining effortlessly in doubles too.

Indian media is going ga-ga over the Grand slam achievements of Paes, Bhupati (even Sania who won mixed doubles with Mahesh at Australian Open). But how significant are these achievements -Tennis wise? How do the ten titles of Paes compare with fifteen of Roger Federer? The answer is for everybody to find out!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Is Daniel Vettori an Allrounder?

Earlier this month, New Zealand captain Daniel Vettori earned the distinction of achieving a unique double of 3000 test runs and 300 wickets in tests. He thus joined an elite group comprising of Ian Botham, Kapil Dev, Imran Khan, fellow countryman Sir Richard Hadlee, Shaun Pollock, Shane Warne and Chaminda Vaas.

Apparently, these runs scored and wickets taken are enough for him to qualify as a leading all rounder. But this glamorous tag is not only about runs and wickets. The first four members of this elite group, Botham, Kapil , Imran and Hadlee would have walked into any side even if they were god at any one of the disciplines, batting or bowling. Shaun Pollock too was equally competitive in both. But the latest three entrants, Warne, Vass and now Vettori have been able to join this group purely because of their longevity.

Warne for example, dearly wanted to score a test century but could not manage to. Barring a few doughty innings in Ashes campaigns, his batting can hardly be said to have contributed to Aussie Juggernaut's journey. Batting prowess of Vaas had no more than a nuisance value. Both were, of course extraordinary bowlers. Warne was till recently world record holder with more than 750 wickets. Vass, on the other hand, although lived in the shadow of Murli, his contribution to Sri Lanka's resurgence can not be denied.

A closer look at Vettori's stats reveals that his contribution to Kiwi success has been very little. On seamer friendly New Zealand pitches his bowling has been largely containing in nature. On the spinner friendly sub continent conditions, he has been successful only against Bangla Desh. His dour batting down the order has often allowed his team to delay the inevitable rather than set up or chase a win.

Eighties was the golden period for all rounders. Kapil, Imran, Hadlee and Botham had a pivotal role in their respective teams. Each one of these had uncanny knack of turning the game on its head within no time with their attacking bowling, explosive bowling, or brilliant fielding. Kapil and Imran also had inspirational leadership qualities.

Retirement of this quartet of mercurial all rounders in early Nineties left a big void. World Cricket has not seen even one Cricketer of such all round capability in last twenty years. Andrew Flintoff is the closest one can think of. Until such exceptional talent emerges, the Cricket lovers across the world will have to make do with Vettoris, Broads and Johnsons.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

One Year after Beijing Olympics

Bejing Olympics 2008 witnessed spectacular performances. There were some disappointments too. Are the Heroes of Beijing living upto their billing? Here's the scenario One year after :

Ussain Bolt, the Jamaica lightening, continues to strike. Having won 100 and 200 meter sprints with world record timings in Beijing, Bolt has now bewildered the entire world by chopping a whopping 0.11 seconds off his own world record. His incredible timing of 9.58 sec at World Championship, Berlin, has left everybody wondering where he will stop!

Another Beijing Hero, Michel Phelps, is still on top of swimmimg world, smoking and swimwear controversies notwithstanding. Earlier this month, Phelps emerged as the best player with five golds. In the next Olympics though, his stupendous feats in the pool might take beating as the World Aquatics body has decided to ban the new technology swim suites.

For Yelena Isinbayeva though, the year has been worst culminating in humiliating show at Belin, as the world record holder Pole Vaulter could not win a medal. In contrast Kenenisa Bekele goes closer to become all time great distance runner by claiming his 4th gold in 10000 m race.

For Roger Federer, 2008 was a nightmare. At Beijing, he lost in quarterfinals as also his top ranking. His stars have dramatically changed since the French Open. By winning french and wimbledon grand slams, federer has won back the top position, albeit helped by his bete noire Rafeal Nadal's injury forced absence.

Last year's Olympics threw four sporing heroes for India. how are they doing this year?

India's lone Olympics gold medalist, Abhinav Bhindra seems to have lost motivation having reached the pinnacle. After spending the entire year, basking in the glory, Bindra is reported to have gone back to shooting range, not quite sure which discipline to pursue for London games.

Indian Boxers are on course for a good show at London in 2012. Impressive performance at recently concluded world championship is certainly a positive sign. With Vijender rising to no. 2 spot in world ranking and with Ladies boxing being included in Olympics fold, India can hope for a gold through Mary Kome , the reigning world champion.

A quietly confident Saina Nehwal has been incredible this year. Although she lost in Quarterfinals of World Badminton Championships in Hyderabad, her rise to world no. 6 has been a stupendous achievement. She is truly a champion in the making.

One year after the Olympics, Indian Hockey is still languishing in doldrums. Indian team faced the ignominy of failing to qualify for Beijing. London 2012 promises to be no different unless some miracle happens.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

What is common between Chak De Girls and KKR Boys?

No prizes for guessing! SRK, who played the role of coach of India women’s Hockey team in the Bollywood movie Chak De India, is the franchisee owner of Kolkatta Knight Riders team in IPL Cricket league. While Chak De.. became a superhit film a couple of years ago, KKR, SRK's sports cum business venture is fast heading towards failure.

The chak De team had at least three players with strong egos. Two brilliant forwards trying to hog the limelight and therefore at loggerheads with each other, and a senior pro deeply hurt because of being sidelined by the coach. SRK repeated the act with KKR by preferring MuCCullum to Dada for the captaincy. (Incidentally, in the film, the goalkeeper was made the captain whereas for IPL SRK has chosen wicketkeeper as the captain!) The Knight riders are a bunch of extremely talented international and local players. But the lack of common purpose is quite evident.

Shah Rukh Khan won lot of accolades for his portrayal of Kabir Khan, the Chak De coach. Why has SRK bought IPL franchise? Has the Kabir Khan role inspired him? Does he treat it as a pure business proposition or is it his passion for the game? I think he is pretending to be passionate in order to further his business interests. Mukesh Ambani and Vijay Mallya have made it clear in no uncertain terms that they are into IPL purely for the sake of business. What irritates most people is SRK’s pretension of being a great thinker of the game and thereby ridiculing some of Cricketing icons of India.

The film depicts how a former player becomes coach to erase personal ignominy of having been held responsible for team’s loss. His maverick ways don’t go down well with most of the members of the team and a rebellion irrupts. The coach is on the verge of resigning but a dramatic non-sporting incident unites the team together. The KKR team is similarly placed. Atrocious decisions of the owner and coach (Buchanan) have divided the team vertically. The captain has offered to resign. The owner is contemplating selling away the franchise. To add to the woes, a mysterious blogger, the fake IPL player, claiming to be a part of KKR squad, is washing the dirty linen in full public view. Unless something dramatic (as dramatic as attack on Chak De girls in the Hotel) happens Riders are sure to be thrown off their Knights.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

SRK Plays Villain - Stabs Dada in Back

An overhyped 'star' and an overrated coach have combined well to finally get rid of an equally overvalued captain. When the news of multiple captain theory first broke, one wondered if it was SRK's move to eliminate Ganguly from the scheme of things at KKR. The fears of many of Dada's supporters came true just a day before Knight Riders' opening match in IPL-SA.

I have always maintained that Shahrukh Khan has given respectability to mediocrity. It is a pity that Indian film watchers have to grant him superstardom in absence of any worthy superb actor. But, nothing succeeds like success, and the success he has got, seems to have made him believe that he can take dig at anybody, contemporaries, seniors or some of the most respected personalities too.

John Buchanan too likes to make everybody believe that he is a genius when it comes to Cricket coaching. He likes to claim credit for Australia's dominance over the Cricketing world in the past decade. But everybody realises that a phenomenal bunch of players - the likes of McGrath and Warne among others - were equally, if not less, responsible for the golden Age of Aussie Cricket. Was he trying to grab perverse attention by propagating his 'rotating captain theory'?

But now it is amply clear that the 'theory' was an attractive gimmick to overthrow Ganguly. There were a host of Cricketing Pundits talking vehemently for and against BuchananTheory that was never going to be put in practice. In one of the most shrewdly executed plans, SRK has managed to knock out the Dada. The point to be noted is that this talk of multiple captains was muted as soon as it was clear that the IPL might be played outside India. What a classical case of opportunism that might put the likes of LaluPrasad or Mulayam Yadav to shame!

I am not a big fan of Ganguly too. Like SRK and Buchanan, he too is overrated by many. True, he is the most successful Indian captain. But his success was built around personal exploits of Rahul Dravid, Tendulkar, Kumble and Harbhajan. But I do admire him for the graceful exit from international Cricket he chose for himself. Going by the press reports, Ganguly was keen to do well in this IPL. But this unceremonious boot from captaincy, I wont be surprised if he repeats his graceful act once again!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Siddhu to Campaign Against Azhar!

Indian Cricketers and film personalities enjoy tumultuous following. Many film stars have successfully encashed their popularity to make foray into politics. But very few Cricketers, and sportspersons in general, have ventured into the trouble waters of electoral politics. Only three former Cricketers and one former Olympian Hockey player have reached Indian Parliament so far. This time a few more are trying their hand.

Although, former skipper MAK Pataudi, the Nawab, who became first to win a series overseas, twice tried is luck at the elections, he could not become the first Cricketer to win an election. The credit goes to Chetan Chauhan, opening partner of Sunny Gavaskar in the Seventies. Chauhan has won Loksabha elections from Amroha in UP, twice – in 1991 and 1998 – and losing thrice. This time too, he is in the fray from East Delhi Constituency representing BJP. Also representing BJP is Kirti Azad, who is trying to regain Darbhanga seat to return to parliament for the second term. Kirti, member of World Cup winning team of 1983, has politics in his genes, as his father was the Chief Minister of Bihar in the Eighties.

The third Cricketer turned MP, Navjot singh Siddhu is a colourful personality. A flamboyant batsman of his time is also known as firebrand commentator and a popular TV show judge on reality laughter programs. Due to his inimitable Siddhuisms, he is a star campaigner for his party, and is eyeing for third term from Amritsar seat for the parliament. Avid Cricket followers will remember how Siddhu angrily abandoned the England tour when Azhar was the captain. Siddhu is all set to take on his former captain in the election rally in Moradabad from where Azhar is contesting.

Azharuddin’s entry into politics is very surprising. But even more surprising is the decision of congress party to field him, considering his tainted image because of his alleged involvement in match-fixing scandal. Madan Lal, another member of Kapil’s Devils seems to have taken his candidature for elections too seriously. Soon after being nominated, he suffered a heart attack. Hopefully he has recovered well enough to jump head on into the political arena. Chetan Sharma is also in the fray. May be he is trying to wipe off the ignominy of getting hit for six on the last ball of the match by Miandad at Sharjah in 1986.

Aslam sher Khan, member of India’s world cup winning hockey team of 1975, became MP as early as in 1984, and again 1991. After losing a couple of elections, he is again contesting this time from Sagar in Madhya Pradesh. He is also a member of Indian Olympic Association's (IOA) ad-hoc committee for hockey.

Ace shooter Jaspal Rana, son of former minister in Uttarakhand, and Ranjib Biswal, former Orissa Cricketer who represented India at U19 level, currently OCA president, also having family background in politics are also contesting this year’s elections.

The number of sportsmen, vying for a seat in parliament is very small compared to film stars. But never mind. There is whole lot of politicians who are ready to interfere in sports. The list is topped by Suresh Kalmadi, the present IOA president, followed by Sharad Pawar, the ICC president elect, and many more. Is there any hope for better days for Indian sports?

Thursday, April 9, 2009

'Outsourcing' of IPL creates Problems for Other Sporting Events in India

Indian IT industry thrives on the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) by the Western world. Like everybody, Indian IT industry is badly hit by the global recession. But Cricket in India is not at all affected by recession. On the other hand, the super-rich BCCI is out to help the cash strapped Cricket Boards across the world. This year’s IPL has been outsourced to South Africa. Who knows this trend will continue in subsequent years. Lalit Modi, the high profile IPL Chief might even invite bids from other Cricket Boards!

Shifting of IPL has been welcome by many and criticized by as many. Aussie, Kiwi, British Cricketers are happy. But players like Sachin and Pollock know that IPL wouldn’t be same without the Indian supporters in the Stadium. The team owners are not complaining but don’t seem to be overly upbeat either. Politicians have a reason to worry as they fear the focus on Election campaigns might be shifted to Television.

Lalit Modi and the IPL must be having its own reasons to get this year’s IPL edition through as per the scheduled dates that are clashing with general election. Modi, the IPL, and the Team Owners may or may not earn profits out of IPL’s sojourn to Africa. But it has created problems to other Sporting events to be held in India.

Shashank Manohar, the BCCI president has clearly blamed the Government for failing to assure security during IPL matches. This has prompted the authorities of Australian Tennis Federation to express their reservations about sending their team for Davis Cup tie to be held in May this year. Commonwealth Games, scheduled to take place in 2010 are already under the cloud as the preparations are way behind the schedule. Now, the participating countries, interestingly most of them are Cricket playing nations, have started clamoring about the security situation in the sub-continent. Recently concluded Indian Open Badminton GP in Hyderabad too was hit by he same issue as the Eglish players chose to skip it because of security concerns. India is also scheduled to host the Hockey World Cup in 2010. But the FIH president Leandro Negre while admitting that terror attacks can take place anywhere, has expressed reservations about security preparations.

All these apprehensions have gained voice because of IPL’s outsourcing. The BCCI, who successfully persuaded Peterson’s England team to continue its India tour after terrorist attack on Mumbai in November last year, is now sending wrong signals about India’s ability to fight terrorism. Sharad Pawar is ICC’s President designate and de-facto boss of BCCI. He is also a minister in central Government and aspirant for PM post after Elections. But his tacit approval for IPL outsourcing certainly raises questions about his ability to protect Indian interests.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Captaincy In Rotational Motion!

Another Aussie coach has crossed swords with Sourav Ganguly. Four years ago, Greg chappell, the then coach of Indian Cricket team, had it his way to get Ganguly removed from captaincy. Now it is John Buchanan who doesn't want Sourav as the sole captain of Kolkatta Knight Riders outfit for the second version of IPL scheduled to start a few weeks later. Buchanan has floated the idea of rotating the role of captaincy amongst Chris Gayle, Brendon McCullum, Brad Hodge and Sourav Ganguly. Thanks God, Ricky Ponting has sought to give IPL a skip. Otherwise he would have been the fifth KKR Captain!

Ironically, both Chapell and Buchanan were Ganguly's preferred choices. Ganguly was at the height of his powers when he backed Chappell's nomination for the post of coach of Indian team. But their relationship turned sour and eventually first Sourav and then Greg had to leave the scene. Last year SRK bought the KKR team of which Ganguly was the icon player. He was also main advisor to ShahRukh in team selection and drafting in Buchanan as side's coach. Buchnaan too, like Chappell, has now sought to undermine Dada's authority.

John Buchanan has been a successful coach of all conquering Australian side. But it remains to be seen what his contribution was to the team's success. The Australian team, consisting of Waugh brothers, world's top bowlers in McGrath and Warne, all time batting greats like Ponting and Hayden would have swept aside most teams any way, even if Javed Miandad was team's Coach! On the contrary, Warne's displeasure about his coaching techniques are well known. His coachng skills deserted him when the team faced spirited challenges, from India in 2001 and from England in Ashes series in 2005.

Buchanan cites the example of Ric Charlesworth, who is said to have used the principle of multiple leaders while coaching Australian Hockey team. It must be noted that role of Captain in sports like Football or Hockey is limited and the role of the coach is prominent. In Cricket it is exactly opposite. Other successful Cricket Coaches like Bob Woolmer , John Wright and Gary Kirsten have quietly worked in the background and let the respective captains, Hansie Cronje Ganguly and MS Dhoni to hog the limelight. Buchanan here is trying to steal the limelight from an equally dominant personality, Dada. The clash of personalities might prove costly to KKR team owners.

Dada or Buchanan - it remains to be seen who relents. Ganguly is clearly in no mood to do so, as his recent remarks reveal. If john goes ahead with his experiment, thankfully the tournament is in South Africa. Otherwise he would have had a torrid time facing the ire of Cricket Crazy Kolkattan public.

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Sunday, March 22, 2009

IPL - Indian Political League?

In spite of being a huge blockbuster last year, second edition of IPL appears to be rocked by troubled waters. IPL, the brainchild of Lalit Modi became superhit last year. Its stupendous success made Modi one of the most influential personalities in international Cricket. But, by the turn of the year, events took a dramatic turn. As the BJP led government in Rajasthan, which backed Lalit Modi to hilt, fell in the elections a few months ago, things started to become nasty for him. Having lost the RCA elections, Modi has now become desperate to stage this year's IPL edition and re-establish his authority. But the other league, Indian Political League is increasingly overshadowing the original IPL!

Both the IPLs have a few 'players' in common. Police, Public and Politicians . Police appears to be a confused lot. With the terrorists striking almost at will, the police must be wising the IPL does not get underway. With the general elections clashing with IPL schedule, obviously the security officials don't want additional burden. Indian public is Cricket crazy, no doubt. But now that the myth that the terrorists wont disrupt Cricket in the subcontinent busted by the attack on Sri Lankan Cricketers in Lahore, the public is certainly apprehensive.

For the politicians who run Cricket in India, this is the crunch time. Obviously, elections is their first priority, Cricket can wait. For Sharad Pawar it is a now-or-never battle as far as realising his long standing dream of being prime minister of the country is concerned. He's already attracting criticism for neglecting his ministry at the expense of BCCI. That's why he doesn't appear to be wholeheartedly behind Lalit Modi. Other Cricketing Politicians like Jaitley also are too busy in electioneering to think of IPL.

Overseas players, the main attraction of last year's IPL are reluctant to participate. Ponting has already withdrawn. Injury hit Flintoff is uncertain. Despite being appointed as Captain of Bangalore team, Kevin Pieterson's participation is doubtful. Lot of Aussie and Kiwi Cricketers too have expressed their concerns. IPL therefore, if conducted this year might well be without many of these stars.

all in all Lalit Modi's cup seem to be full of woes. Terror attacks, global recession, top stars' withdrawal. Everything has come at the same time. May be it is another Modi (Narendra Modi) who hogs the limelight this year - on the Election grounds of the Indian Political League!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

India Beats Australia Yet Again - In World Cup For the First Time!

Australian Cricketers these days seem to find it difficult to handle the Indian Cricket flavour. A few days ago, Dhoni and his men gave a serious jolt to Australian supremacy as Ponting's team was squarely beaten in the Test series. Indian eves too have picked up cue from their male counterparts. In the Women's Cricket World cup, now on in Australia, Indian team today stunned the defending champion Australian team. Indian team has thus avenged its loss in the finals at the last world cup in 2005. While Australia's chances of retaining the title are almost over, Indian team led by Zulan Goswami is certainly on course to be second time lucky.

The whole of India is Cricket crazy. Cricketers enjoy a huge fan following. They are equally popular, if not more than politicians and Cine stars. There is a tremendous media coverage to Cricket. But strangely, none of the popularity or media attention has come to women's Cricket. Even a common Cricket fan in India knows lot about the teams, players, the statistics and the technicalities of the game. But he hardly cares for Women's Cricket and women cricketers. With live coverage of matches, Cricket has intruded the drawing rooms of Indian homes. Hence many girls and even housewives keep an updated knowledge of Cricket world. But even the female fans pay little attention to ladies Cricket.

It is not that the Indian women are push overs in international Cricket. Former captains, Diana Edulji and Shubhangi Kulkarni were highly regarded for their Cricketing skills even by their male counterparts. Over the years Indian women Cricket has thrown many talented players like Shanta Rangaswamy, Sandhya Agarwal, Mitali Jain, Anjum Chopra, to name a few. Indian team has done consistently well against top teams, Australia, England and New Zealand. Current captain Zulan Goswami was adjudged as Cricket of the Year in 2008. Anjum Chopra, having the distinction of appearing in four world cup tournaments - a feat comparable to Sachin Tendulkar - is a well known face on TV commentators' panel putting across her observations alomg with the likes of Srikanth, Mohinder an others.

In spite of all these credentials, women's Cricket in India is very much neglected. Sania Mirza, Saina Nehwal, PT Usha these sportswomen enjoy more popularity than the female Cricketers. Ironically, this is exactly opposite to what happens in case of men, where other players complain of being given scant respect compared to men's Cricket. Things have changed slightly for the better in last couple of years since ICC has taken over women's Cricket, and in India too, BCCI looks after women's Cricket. Which means more sponsorships, more exposure, better remuneration to players. Hopefully it will result in increase in spectator interest in women Cricket. Indian team is certainly in semi finals now. Hopefully a tall and athletic Zulan Goswami wins first world cup for India, much the same way Kapil Dev did in 1983, and Women's Cricket might get a surge in popularity - much the same way men's Cricket got after the world cup victory!

Monday, March 2, 2009

High-Flying Lalit Modi Falls on His Face

In India, Cricket is always in the news. Sometimes for on-field incidences, but more often for off the field events. Lalit Modi's crushing defeat in Rajasthan Cricket Association's elections is the front-page news today everywhere in the media. Not so long ago, Jagmohan Daalmiya was ousted from BCCI and we saw acrimonious rounds of allegaions and counter-allegations and long drawn legal battles. The same is likely to follow as Modi has been thrown out of his state Association.

Cricket in India is a heady mix of politics, 'paisa', passion and personalities. Jagmohan Dalmiya was te first businessman to 'paisa' out of people's passion for Cricket. The same lured Sharad Pawar into Cricket Politics. But it was, and still is, Lalit Modi who masterminded the IPL and virtually ruled th international Cricket world for the last year or so. He had been having everything his way, be it bringing the other boards to his feet, or getting ICC to accomodate IPL and champion League ( although it had to be put off ) in the calender. The hgh-flying Modi has suddenly been bearded in his own den.

where does Lalit Modi go from here? Will he resign from the post of IPL ccommisioner? Well, like a true politician he won't! But I have afeeling that, Sharad Pawar, a seasoned player in political battleground will slowly bring about Modi's ouster from BCCI and IPL.

Meanwhile, Cricket will continue to flourish in India. Incredible obsession about Cricket among the public will be continued to be exploited by, well somebody or the other. Earlier it was Dalmiya, now Lalit Modi, tomorrow, somebody else, may be Lalu Prasad Yadav! Afterall he is better known as self styled Management guru more than as a politician. Lalu Yadav aspires to be country's Prime minister one day. He may well settle for the second best option as Sharad Pawar did - President of BCCI!
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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Kiwi Cricket Team: Perennial Underdogs

Two Cricketing battles are set to start in this week. Both of them are in the southern hemisphere. In South Africa, a below strength Australian team reeling under recent ‘recession’ aims to thwart the beaming host team from snatching their top ranking in tests. On the other hand, MS Dhoni led Indian team, after a stupendous season in sub continental conditions, sets off to conquer the cold, windy fields and seaming pitches in New Zealand.

Kiwi Cricket team has always been enigmatic. Barring Richard Hadlee, Cairns father-son duo, Martin Crowe and the present captain Daniel Vettori, the team over the years had very few world-class performers. Yet the team has occasionally surprised some of the stronger teams, especially at home. Even without superstars, the Black Caps are hard to beat in their own backyard. That the Kiwis have managed to reach semifinals of world Cup five times speaks a lot about their resilience. But the fact that the team has never gone on to win the world Cup also reflects the lack of genuine match winners.

India won its first overseas series against New Zealand in 1969. But thereafter, its showing here has been pathetic. No Indian team, be it with world class spinning quartet(1976) , consisting of Grreats like Gavaskar, Vishvanath and Kapil (1981) or having batting mastereos like Sachin, Dravid and Ganguly (2003) has been able to win a series here since 1969. Will it be possible for today’s star studded tram, led by Dhoni to create another history?

The two teams clash with each other in the shorter versions of the game first before three match test series. The New Zealand team is fresh from its heroics in Australia, where they were thwarted by rain from winning the ODI series and lost only by one run in T-20 match against the Aussies. Awesome batting display of Ross Taylor, Grant Elliot, Brendon McCullum in that series must be a cause of concern for Indian team’s think tank. Return of Jacob Oram has certainly strengthened the Black caps.

Indian team too, is riding high on nine wins out of last ten ODI matches. Its flamboyant batsmen are in tremendous form. But key to team’s success against England and Sri Lanka in last two series was the role of occasional spinners, Viru, Yuvraj , Yusuf Pathan etc. They are not going to be effective on seamer friendly pitches in New Zealand. Absence of a seaming all rounder might hurt India. May be it’s time for Dhoni to play as all rounder, as he can bowl occasional medium pacers effectively!

Indian test team appears to better placed than what it was in 2003. The team has a better pace attack. It remains to be seen as to how the famed batting line up copes up with the conditions. It is the last chance for the likes of Tendulkar, Dravid and Laxman to stamp their authority in this country. The Indians have to keep their good work of last year going if they are to remain in the hunt for top spot in Test and ODI rankings.

Somehow, Indian teams while playing against New Zealand, whether at home or away, used to give an impression that they are taking Kiwis a bit lightly. This team, under MS Dhoni and Gary Kirsten, though appears keen to make amends. A close tussle between talent and tenacity is on cards. Any guesses for series result? Well, I give Black Caps an edge in ODI but Indians seem to be ahead in Tests. T-20? Anybody’s game really!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Vishy, The Original Little Master, Turns Sixty

Gundappa Vishwanath turned sixty yesterday. Suddenly I realised that I am following Cricket since last forty years. It was during the Diwali vacations of 1969 that I was introduced to running commentary by one of my college going cousins. I still remember the noisy celebrations by my cousin and his friends when Vishy scored his first Hundred on debut in the Kanpur Test. I was too young to understand the entire commentary but the coverage in local papers next day made me realize that Vishwanath had done something special. He became my first childhood hero.

I, as indeed many of young Cricket lovers in the seventies, particularly from nondescript towns in India, never got to see Vishy live on ground or on TV as his career terminated prematurely in 1981, well before the advent of live TV coverage. But the vivid narrations by Suresh Saraiyya, Anant Setalwad, Vijay Merchant, Tony Cozier etc during the commentary and equally glowing match reports by K.N.Parbhu and Bal Pandit and V.V.Karmarkar ( in Marathi papers) were enough for me to believe that Vishy is truly an all time great Cricketer.

All through his career, Vishy had to live in the shadow of Sunny Gavaskar. In Sunny’s debut series against West Indies in 1971, Vishwanath was injured for first three tests. Sunny stole the limelight then and forever. But the die-hard followers of the game know the value of Vishy’s presence in the team with a very brittle middle order and his contribution in all the landmark wins India had posted all through the Seventies. People talk of Laxman’s double century against Australia in 2001 as the best Innings by an Indian. But I am sure that those who watched or even listened to the commentary would rate Vishy’s counterattacking innings of 97 not out (against a rampaging Andy Roberts on Chepauk in fourth Test against West Indies in 1974-75) ahead of everything.

His polite and unassuming nature on and off the field is talked of very highly. Although with a very shrewd Cricketing brain, his selfless and gentle character might have come in the way to be given captaincy. In the only test he captained, that too when Sunny volunteered to rest, Vishy had put forth the greatest ever example of sportsmanship by recalling a batsman, Bob Taylor of England, given out by the umpire when the opposition was precariously placed. It is impossible to think of such gesture being offered by the likes of Ricky Ponting, Ganguly, or even Sunny Gavaskar. He perhaps was the last gentleman on a Cricket field.

One of the striking features of his batting was that he used to score at a fairly decent pace. His wristy play would have been ideal in the middle overs of One day Cricket, but he hardly got to feature in it. His career ended abruptly after his failure against Imran’s XIII that included partisan umpires. We just witnessed a lot of media support for Ganguly or Dravid in spite of a long sequence of failures. But in 1981, nobody, not even Sunny Gavaskar, his greatest admirer, stood for Vishwanath’s comeback. Never a man of manipulative means, Vishy preferred to walk into oblivion. But he continues to rule the hearts of Cricket lovers of that generation never mind the exploits of Sachin, Dravid or Sehwag.

BCCI has recently decided to honour Vishy with the Life Time achievement award. It is a happy coincidence that it comes close to his sixtieth birthday. Vishy truly deserves this and much more.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

World Tennis Doesn't Want Federer Go the Borg Way

The emotional breakdown of Roger Federer at this year’s Australian Open reminded many of a dejected Bjorn Borg leaving Flushing Meadows even before prize distribution ceremony after losing the 1981 US Open final to his arch rival, John McEnroe. Borg never appeared in a Grand Slam tournament after that. Watching a psychologically drained Federer in tears the other day, one wonders if the world will ever see the Federer in full flow on a Tennis court.

I find many interesting parallels between these two all time greats of World Tennis. Borg the Swede and Roger the Swiss. Both right handed although Borg made the double handed backhand famous. Borg was at the height of his powers before he won the grueling five setter against the maverick Mac at Wimbledon in 1980. Federer on the other hand was on the back of unprecedented 237 weeks as the no.1 player in the world notwithstanding successive failures at French Open in 2008. But both had their self belief shaken in the respective year’s Wimbledon finals. Incidentally both were rocked by Left Handers (John McEnroe and Rafael Nadal).

But there’s another interesting comparison. Borg, a hard core base liner, surprised many pundits as he won five successive Wimbledon Titles following on his French Open victories. McEnroe, a natural Serve and Volley player, ended his regime. Federer, on the other hand is the best Grass Court player the world has ever seen. Yet he was outclassed and outlasted by Nadal, a Clay court specialist, who has adapted extremely well to other surfaces.
After the epic match at Wimbledon 1980, Borg had suffered three successive grand slam final losses (US open 1980, Wimbledon 1981 and US open 1981) at the hands of McEnroe, five years junior to him. With his confidence severely dented, Borg retired at the age of 26, and the world was shocked. His life after retirement was full of unfortunate incidences including divorce and financial loss. Borg did try to stage a comeback but could not withstand the new age Tennis. His nemesis, McEnroe still haunts him as he recently lost an exhibition match too.

Federer too has now lost three consecutive Grand slam finals to Rafael Nadal (French Open and Wimbledon 2008 and Aus Open few days ago). He too has shown signs of psychological disintegration. He now seems to be living in denial. Not only Nadal, the likes of Andy Murray and Djokovic are also fancying their chances against him. As I had said earlier, Federer needs to accept the fact that the others have caught up to him. If he does not realize this fact quickly, he risks Borg like fate. Many ardent Federer fans like me certainly want him to be on the court fighting his way back to glory rather than resigning in disgust.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Of Brothers and Sisters in Tennis

Just concluded Australian Open was dominated by brothers and sisters. This year's doubles titles in men and women category were won by Black brothers and Williams sisters respectively. But that is not all. Women's runner up Dinara Safina has an equally famous brother - Marat Safin himself a former world no 1. Our own Yuki Bhambri, Junior champion at Oz open this year proudly mentions his two tennis playing sisters - Ankita and Saana.
That prompts me to chalk down a list of famous siblings in Tennis. I do not claim that the list is complete. If you could add to following list, please go ahead.

Williams sisters - Venus ans Serena

The pair is undoubtedly the most powerful ever combination in women's doubles. Both the sisters, former world no 1, having won 18 Grand slam singles titles between them, have a fantastic record in doubles too. They have 8 grand slam doubles titles and last year's Olympics gold medal to their credit. In the last decade or so, women's tennis saw rise and fall of many players. Williams sisters have endured the likes of Henin, Sharapova, Ivanovic and others and are set to rule the women's cirsuit for many years to come.

Black brothers - Byran and wyne

The Blacks have won virtually everything under the sun as far as men's doubles is concerned. Not quite highly ranked individually in singles, their combination is superb. Originally from Zimbabwe, they form an important part of US Davis cup team. The Blacks also Olympics Bronze medal. This team of brothers has been a flesh in the thorn for Indian pair of Bhupati and Paes when they were playing together and now when they are with different partners. Yestersay too, Bhupatiwas aiming for two titles at Australian Open. But he along with Knowles were beaten squarely by the Blacks ( who are not black!)

McEnroe brothers - John and Pathrick

John McEnroe needs no introduction to any Tennis fan. His rivalry with borg, his tantrums on the court and his sliken game are a part of the folklore. Apart from a magnificent record in singles, he won many doubles titles parterin mainly with Peter Fleming. His younger brother, Pathrick was less exuberent. He was a more successful Doubles player although he played with John for very few times. Pathrick won French Open in 1989 (with Jimmy Grab) and was runner up in Australian Open in 1991 ( with David wheaton ). In addition, he won fifteen double titles on the ATP circuit. Like his elder brother, Pathrick represented US in Davis Cup both as a player and coach.

The Sanchez siblings - Emilio, Javier and Arantxa

The trio forms one of the most successful tennis families in the world. Arantxa, former world no 1, the youngest became youngest female player to win French Open, went on to win 14 Grand slam titles in all, in addition to Olympics medals in 1992 and 1996 Games. Her borthers, Emilio and Javier both were one of the most accomplished Doubles players, although rarely did they play together. Emilio, a top ten Singles player too, won 50 doubles titile on ATP circuit including 3 grand slam wins. He along with Sergio Casal was the top most doubles team in Eighties and Nineties. Emilio was coach of Spain's Davis Cup team that won last year's championship. Javier too, was a successful doubles player, winning 24 ATP titles, many of them. interestingly, with Sergio Casal!

Amritraj brothers - Anand, Vijay and Ashok

The First family of Indian Tennis. Vijay Amritraj his brothers, Anand and Ashok , were among the first Indians to play in top-flight international tour tennis. Vijay was said to be as talented as Borg and Connors. He had ability to surprise any top ranked player on his day. Twice Wimbledon Quarter finalist, he won 13 singles in his career. But Indians know him better for his tenacious play in Davis Cup matches and his partnership with his elder brother Anand. Vijay took India to finals of Davis Cup twice - in 1974 and 1987. While Anand played mostly in Davis Cup matches, youngest of the brothers, Ashok after initial foray in the sport quickly turned to Hollywood to become a successful producer.

The Austins - Tracy and John

Just before the advent of Steffi Graf, a teen age sensation had blazed the Tennis world. Tracy Austin won US open 1979 when only 16. Sadly her career was shoret lived because of injuries. She had won 1980 Wimbledon mixed doubles title with her brother John, himself a member of US Davis cup team.

Then there have been siblings Cyril Suk and Helena Sukova and won the Wimbledon mixed in the 90's. And You had Gene and Sandy Mayer back in the 80's. On the national scene in India, Keertane brothers Nitin and Sandeep represented Maharashtra, while Bhambri sisters Ankita and Saana regularly feature in Challengers. Their younger brother, Yuki is today the toast of nation following his win at Australian open. Oberai sisters Neha and Shikha are also around but the NRI sisters' dream to represent India seems to be in jeopardy following government's decision not to allow NRIs to represent the country in sports.

As I said in the beginning, the list may be incomplete. Readers are welcome to contribute to the compilation.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Bhajji Gets Padmashree for 'Boxing'!

Harbhajan Singh won this year's Padmashri honour ahead of Olympics medalist Vijendar and world Cup star Akhil kumar - apparently for the 'Knock Out' punch that he delivered to floor ShreeSanth in full public view in an IPL match. His 'doosari' skills apparently impressed the powers in the government to confer this prestigious award on the maverick spinner. Sadly, the likes of Vijendar, sushil and Akhil don't have the Cricketing 'sledging' skills to be eligible for these awards!
Padma awards and Bravery awards announced on the eve of Republic Day every year invariably invite controversies because of inclusion or exclusion of certain names. Angry reactions have been seen over the omission of one of the Security officials, killed in the midst of terrorist attack on Mumbai, from Ashok chakra awardees. Equally baffling is the absence of Olympic medalists from the Padma awardees list.

In a country where sporting achievements of international standard are very few and far in between, winning an Olympic medal is a rarest of rare occasion. Even though negligible compared to china, Indian athletes winning three medals at Beijing Olympics is a historic milestone not only for Indian sport but for Indian society. Hence, if even after doing the country proud in an event participated by more than 200 countries, they are ignored by the government and society, Vijendar and sushil Kumar have every reason to feel hurt.

Non Cricketing athletes always complain that they are overlooked at the expense of Cricketers. Their claim appears more justified in light of this Padma award, especially given to Bhajji. Bhajji's 'kaarname' can hardly be said to have done India proud. This is as if the governement has legitimised his frequent erratic behaviour. Padmashri is third highest civilian award. It is ironic that it is being awarded to one of the most uncivilized citizens of this country.

Should the sportsmen be included in Padma awards list? The government announces Arjuna awards and Rajiv gandhi Khelratna awards. similarly, the flim personalities are awarded national awards and Phalke Award each year. DnyaanPeeth for Literarurs. Either the awards in these individual categories should be abolished or the categories awarded individually should be excluded from the padma awards.

Meanwhile, it is learnt that Vijendar, Akhil and Co are studying Cricketers' video footage so that they can pick up a trick or two of 'sledging' which will help them figure in next year's Padmashree List!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Australia's New Warnie?

Australia's dominance over the cricket world for the past decade revolved around tremendous exploits of the greatest Spin bowler world has ever seen - Shane Warne. Incidentally, Aussie decline corresponded with Warnie's retirement. Seeing the team's dismal performances of late, every Aussie Cricket Supporter is asking - Where's next Warnie?

Well, the Aussies seem to have unearthed a new Warnie - not like the wily leg spinner, but a stocky swashbuckling opener in David Warner. Whole of Australia is looking at him with lot of optimism in the wake of string of defeats. His extraordinary display of power hitting at MCG in first T20 match was today followed by an equally astonishing exhibition of strokeplay at SCG against South Africa. Warner's inclusion in national ODI team had raised many eyebrows as he is yet to play a single first class game for NSW. People had strted calling him as One Match Wonder following his failures in first two ODI games. But how well he answered the critics today!

Warner's inclusion in national team - without playing a first class game - must be the first instance in Australia's Cricket history. Such instances are common in Subcontinental Cricketing nations. But Australian selectors had to inject fresh blood to stem the rot. The likes of Shaun Marsh, David Warner, James Hopes seem to the future of Australian Cricket.

Warner's pyrotechnics notwithstanding, Aussies are trailing in the current ODI series against SAF. Will Warner help them win from here? Without the support from a jaded middle order, it seems unlikely.

Older Warnie has a long history of erratic behaviour that includes allegations of fixing, extra marital affairs and banned drugs. This new sensation also is believed to have been thrown out of Cricket Academy because of irresponsible behaviour. One hopes and Dave Gilbert, NSW coach assures, that Warner steers himself away from the conttroversies and concentrates on hitting ball as hard as he can.

A prospect of one Warnie against another awaits Indian fans. While Shane Warne come back to lead Rajasthan Royals, David Warner has been contracted by Delhi Daredevils for the next IPL season. Daredevils aleady boast of world's best opening pair in Sehwag and Gambhir. Warner will add immensely to Delhi's fire power. It will be interesting to see green horn facing upto a wily old fox!