Friday, June 30, 2006


The Indians and the West Indies battle it out one last time for the elusive win the four match test series. The teams have shown a rather defensive attitude notwithstanding the soundbites from the rival camps.

There is again a lot of speculation about the state of the pitch at Sabina Park. Once upon a time, batsmen of the rival teams feared to walk on to the pitch. This was more to do with the line-up of fast bowlers with the maroon caps. The relaying of the pitch and the decline of the fast bowlers of the West Indies has the potential of making this match a dull and high scoring affair.

The Indians have squandered a great opportunity to win an overseas series since 1986. However, this a chance that has to be taken. The Indian cricket fans do not have great memories of Sabina Park for here it was Clive Lloyd unleashed Michael Holding and company whereby most of the Indian batsmen go hit and the innings was declared.

It is time for the Greg Chappell and Rahul Dravid combination to get a win. With the Chairman of selectors Kiran More in Jamaica, there is no shortage of guidance and inspiration for the Indians !


The quarterfinals of the 2006 FIFA world cup will open with a bang with the match featuring Germany and Argentina. The two teams have put up an impressive display so far in the tournament. The Germans have fielded a team that is the best since 1990. The same goes for the Argentines.

Both sides have wonderful playmakers in Ballack, Riquelme and Messi. Saviola and Crespo have Klose and Podolsky. The Germans are traditionally good defenders while the Argentines are well served by Ayala and company. But the biggest factor could be the home fans, whom the German coach, Klinsmann calls the 12th player.

The second match of the day features Italy and Ukraine. The Italians were lucky to be awarded a penalty in the extra time against Australia. The Azzuri have not displayed the kind of football that would make them strong contenders for the cup. But they might prove to be too strong for the tournament debutants, Ukraine. Shevchenko and the others don’t have the firepower to cause difficulties for the Italian defence.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006



Brazil got a win over Ghana. The Africans who made their debut in this world cup were not overrun as the scoreline suggests. The Ghanians made several forays into the Brazilian half but somehow did not have the finishing skills. Dida in the Brazilian goal had to make a couple of good saves and one ball was prevented from entering the goal thanks to an instinctive reflex action of the goalie.

The team from Brazil has to strengthen its defence in the coming matches. Ronaldo scored a record fifteenth goal to take him past Gerd Muller. The second goal from Adriano was somewhat lucky as the television replays showed him to be offside. Adriano should not resort to dives.



After an impressive display in the first round, Spain was expected to beat France. But as in the past, Spain lost. In 1986, Spain beat Denmark who scored 6 goals past the likes of Enzo Francescoli of Uruguay. Then in another edition, Michel scored 4 goals in one match and the Spanish progress was halted abruptly. The Spanish have lived upto the tag of underachievers.

To be fair, Zidane and company played inspired football, especially in the second 45 minutes. Things were expected to go the Spanish way after the successful penalty conversion by David Villa. The French equalizer by Ribery seemed to bring the confidence back to the Les Bleus. Patrick Viera had a great role to play scoring one goal and also setting up the scorers.

The win pits the French against the Brazilians. The Samba boys and in particular, Ronaldo would like the erase the bad memories of the defeat in the finals of 1998 at Paris.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006


Despite the claims of the FIFA bosses, players at the current world cup do no desist from diving. The latest example is the one that resulted in the ouster of Australia from the world cup. Players dive and then the appeals that follow are bound to test the nerves of the referee.  This is especially the case when big teams like Italy are involved. The rub of the green most certainly goes in favour of the more famous players and teams. The players have cultivated the habit of appealing for everything.

In cricket, there are some punitive measures to tackle the problem of excessive appealing. That can in some way reduce the farcical ‘fall and appeal’ routine that has become the most repeated trick in the world cup of 2006.

This is not fairplay.

Italy go through


Italy scored off a penalty in the last minute of the game to beat Australia and enter the quarterfinals. This defeat ended the run of the ‘socceroos’ in the 2006 world cup. Guus Hiddink was not able to repeat the feat of taking South Korea to the quarterfinals in the last edition of the world cup in 2002.

Shevchenko may ultimately prove to be the key in the match-up between Ukraine and Switzerland.

Monday, June 26, 2006



Portugal is through to the quarterfinals thanks to a goal from Maniche. The match was characterized by solid football and eventful moments. There were plenty of yellow cards and 4 players were actually sent off. The second half was hard fought with the Dutch trying hard to score and Portugal aiming to increase their lead. The intensity of the match judged from the 6 minutes of injury time.

Portugal is scheduled to meet England in the quarterfinals. England went past Ecuador through a freekick from David Beckham. The English now has the distinction of scoring in three consecutive world cups.

Portugal beat Holland and England on way to the finals of the Euro 2004. So will it be the same this time?

Sunday, June 25, 2006


The English cricket team lost the one-day series in Pakistan and they lost the seven match series in India as well. I believe the English won only one match in India. The English media went hoarse with the calls saying that the English team does not take the limited overs version of the game seriously. But the same people were over the moon when England did better in the one-dayers before the last Ashes.

Now England have been beaten in a one-day series by Sri Lanka. Wonder, if the home team took the matches seriously. The fact is otherwise. If analysed carefully, there are very few players in the England team who fit the one-day game. Flintoff is good for both the tests and the one-dayers. So is the case with Kevin Pietersen. Speaking about Pietersen, he is the best English batsmen since the Ashes. But very often, after a good start, he throws his wicket away in the one-dayers. Collingwood is another player who is a very good one-day player. He can bat, bowl and field excellently.

Apart from these players, there are not many who have match winning abilities in the one dayers. Michael Vaughan was never a good one day player. Trescothick and Strauss do not have the ability to take on the opposition bowlers that is so important in the early stages of the limited overs game.

In the bowling department, there are no such English bowlers who can mix the pace and create problems for the batsmen of the opposing teams. There is no spinner to bring down the opposition run rate.

So it is time that the English team gets its act together in the one-dayers. Or, they have to accept the fact that they are not a good one day side.



Atkinson the famous pitch maker or more properly, the pitch curator, promised a good sporting wicket for the third test at St. Kitts. But in the end, the pitch is a true batsman’s paradise.

In the three days of cricket, the home team was able to complete the first innings and the visiting Indians have lost only two wickets. Of course, rains played the spoilsport by curtailing the cricket. To be fair, the home batsmen were not intent on scoring the runs quickly and the visiting bowlers were not able to dislodge them.

Commentators like Siddhu and Manjrekar blamed Lara for the prolonged boredom over the three days. Chanderpaul boosted his home average against India and took a lot of flak for the slow approach. Lara and the West Indies team management had a plan to deny the Indians the chance of a victory. The winning of the toss helped them. The lack of a proper bowling plan from the Indians aided the home team in its cause. The fielding placements left a lot to be desired.

The debutant umpire Brian Jerling made life uncomfortable for the Indian bowlers, especially, Anil Kumble. Of course, umpriring decisions or non-decisions are a part of this great game.



Germany and Argentina are through the quarterfinals of the 2006 world cup, though in contrasting styles. Germany scored two early goals and Podolski was the scorer on both the occasions. The Swedes fluffed up their lines and Henrik Larsson missed a penalty. That is how the game can be cruel sometimes. Larsson is the all time scorer for Sweden and he missed a penalty. The Germans are a safe bet to go all the distance with all the support they get from their supporters.

The Argentines were jolted by an early goal from the Mexicans, though a melee at the goal resulted in the equalizer. It was only in the extra time the match was decided.


All the talk is over. Now it is time for the overhyped footballers of England to finally show to the world that they have the heart and the ability to compete with the best. Of course, Ecuador are not really in the same league as their more famous South American compatriots, Brazil and Argentina.

In the three first round matches, Beckham and company have displayed little of their skills and talent. Peter Crouch does not really look like scoring goals. Joe Cole and Gerrard not to forget Lampard have looked good. Michael Owen has suffered a horrible injury.

Most of the English footballers look classy in the Premier League but when it comes to the international scene, it is a completely different story.


Portugal and Holland fight out for a quarterfinal spot. Both the teams have so far displayed an uninspiring brand of football. Portugal is always a paradox with all the talent available and so is Holland. It is a last chance for the likes of Figo to achieve greatness at the exalted scene while Christian Ronaldo, Robben and Van Persie would strive for the ultimate recognition.

The Dutch teams of the 1980s and the 1990s could not achieve much except for the win in the European championship of 1988. That team had the talent but in the world cup of 1990, they lost out to the eventual winners, Germany. It was alleged that the Dutch teams suffered from internal strife.

The match is also a contest between two coaches of different styles and strategies. Scolari brings the Brazilian flavour while Van Basten is more focused on defence.

In my humble opinion, the match should go all the distance to the extra time and even to the penalty shots.

Saturday, June 24, 2006



The second match of the day features Argentina and Mexico. The 1986 winners look a class above the rest and Mexico have a lot to worry over. But Mexico are no pushovers, The last few matches between the two have been close contests.

However, few would dare to bet against the likes of Riquelme, Messi, Ayala and others. No doubt, this is the best Argentine team since the one led by Diego Maradona to win in 1986.



The German team is favoured to win against Sweden. The strikers of the home team, Podolski and Klose are in good touch and with the inspirational Ballack in the midfield, few would like to think otherwise. The Germans are always good in defence and the present defenders are not likely to allow much room to the opponents. But the biggest strength of the Germans is Ballack who orchestrates all the forward moves with great skill and creativity. No wonder, the home supporters were disappointed with the injury of Ballack on the eve of the tournament opener against Costa Rica.


Ghana remains the only country from Africa to go to the second round of the 2006 world cup. The talent on show by the African teams that included the likes of Ivory Coast, Togo, Angola besides Ghana was exceptional, although the goals and the victories belonged to the opponents. Only the magicians from South America surpassed some of the skills displayed by the Africans. It is this brand of football from Africa that makes one sit up and take notice. One thing that is spectacular of the African footballers is the way the goals are celebrated. Roger Milla had his own style while the Nigerians like Kaanu put up their own style. This time also every goal was celebrated in a different and an unique way.

Ghana are unlucky in a way to play Brazil in the second round but that is something that the likes of Appiah would relish. The footballers from Africa see the world cup as an opportunity for better future in the lucrative leagues of Europe.

The only Ghanian to get international recognition is the Secretary General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan. Now a whole country and a continent can be proud of a group of Ghanians.



The line-up for the second round has been completed. France fought off the stubborn resolve from Togo and scored two goals. The French have been joined by Switzerland who got the better of South Korea. With this defeat for the Koreans, there is no representative left in the world cup.

Spain consolidated their position at the top of Group H and Ukraine also go through to the second round.

Friday, June 23, 2006



Despite all talk from Lara about the ‘fastness’ of the pitch, the wicket at St. Kitts has not bothered the batsmen of the home team on the first day. The home just lost one wicket for a score of just over 200 runs on a day cut short by rain. Of course, the Indian bowlers also helped the cause of the home team. Barring Munaf Patel and Kumble, the other bowlers were thrashed by Gayle to all parts of the Warner Park. Gayle had a new sponsor for his bat and as to show off the new sticker, the left hander sent the ball over the fence 5 times.

There is something wrong with the Indian think-tank. Pathan was dropped after receiving tips from the great Andy Roberts. V.R.V.Singh was dropped justifiably so after the first two matches. Harbhajan Singh and Sreesanth replaced these two bowlers. The Kerala bowler is proving to be a favourite of Gayle and Harbhajan could not make any impact, at least one the first day.
The Indians have do something dramatic on the second day of the match to take the match in their direction.

What has happened to the ‘pitch consultant’ who was supposed to make all the difference? If anyone wants, I am offering myself to prepare wickets.



For a team that boasts the likes of Zinedine Zidane and Thierry Henry in its ranks, these are surely hard times. The Les Bleus have struggled since the last world cup and the showing in the first two matches does not inspire any confidence. He French have to beat South Korea to go through to the second round. The French could not go past the first round in the last edition.

I strongly believe that Henry and company have not able to replicate their club success at the international level. For a player who finished at the top of the goal scoring heap for the last two seasons in the English Premier League, Henry could find the net only once in the first two matches. Zidane has seen great days and the suspension makes him sit out the crucial match. If only the others play to their potential, Zidane can try one last time.



Everyone doubted the ability of Ronaldo to contribute anything of substance to the Brazilian effort. For a large part of the season injury kept Ronaldo out of the game. He was clearly overweight and struggled to find the touch and rhythm in the first games of the 2006 world cup. But in the match against Japan, Ronaldo managed two goals to tie with the all time leading goal scorer in the world cup, Gerd Muller.

Critics can undermine the effort citing the weakness of the opposition, in this case Japan. But the important part is that Ronaldo seemed to enjoy the game. That may yet prove to be dangerous for the opposition in the matches to come.

Thursday, June 22, 2006


It is time for the Brazilians to show the magic that has so far eluded the fans in the first two matches. One can safely predict the outcome of the match between Brazil and Japan. But then the display from the likes of Ronaldinho and company has been laboured and unimpressive. That is the cause for worry for the champions have to get past opponents stronger than Croatia, Australia and Japan from the second round.



The first round has provided very little by way of surprises but Group E has the potential. All the four teams, Italy, Czech Republic, Ghana and the United States have good chances of making through to the second round. The race is even tighter when it comes to the first three. Italy just needs a draw while Czech Republic and Ghana need a win.

Italy takes on Czech Republic and might just defend to secure a single point. With Koller injured, the attacking options are very limited for the Czechs. The Ghanians are the favourites to beat the U.S. The Africans are carrying the hopes of an entire continent and that can be pressure enough.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006


Many years ago when I was just starting out on cricket, my uncle asked me whether I was a bowler or a batsman. I wanted to be a batsman and on times rolled the arm over. He was disappointed. Being an avid fan of cricket, he was frustrated at the lack of penetration in the Indian bowling line-up. At the same time, he was disappointed over the poor showing of the Indian batsmen when facing the fast bowlers.

To this day, the same story continues to the chagrin of the Indian cricket fan. It is the lack of a fast bowler who can bowl swinging yorkers, that has cost India many a match. The inability to close out the last two test matches in the West Indies is also a pointer in this direction. It is not that every bowler can become a Waqar Younis or a Wasim Akram, but at least no Indian bowler has ever looked like bowling those yorkers on a consistent basis.

Zaheer Khan came into the reckoning with superb yorkers in the ICC Champions Trophy in Kenya. If I remember correctly, it was a special from Zaheer that defeated Steve Waugh. But over time, Zaheer fluffed his lines and is now out of the Indian team. Pathan never relied on this kind of a ball to bag his wickets. Srinath was the best fast bowler to play for India since Kapil Dev. He also never bowled a yorker. Of the current lot, Munaf has got the pace and the attitude.

The yorker bowled with pace and aimed at the right direction can be a very potent weapon bowling on unresponsive pitches and at lower order batsmen.


India lost a great chance to win the first two test matches of the series. It is time that India finally does enough to win the elusive test match abroad. The team management is short of ideas, that is, those based on reason. The much-touted five bowler strategy was simply tossed into the seas. For a coach and a captain who are supposedly not defensive, this one is certainly not an attacking strategy.

Whatever do people like Ian Bishop say, it is time that V.R.V. Singh is removed from the playing eleven. Here is a ‘fast’ bowler who looks and bowls like a veteran of more than 100 test matches. His walk back to the bowling mark is something that takes the cake. His disinterested walk is not something that is cool for a fast bowler. Pathan continues to surprise with his lack of pace and imagination. Sreesanth is only fury without being able to subdue the batsmen.

Of the bowlers, Kumble and Munaf looked the part, while Sehwag is the surprise packet. The fielding, especially, the close-in ones do not inspire much confidence. This is astonishing considering the credentials of Greg Chappell as a catcher of repute in the slips.


Sweden managed to keep their proud record against England intact. Twice in the match, the Swedes came from behind to level the score. The goal of Joe Cole reminded of the goal scored by Ronaldinho in the last world cup against England. Owen is in all likelihood going to miss the rest of the world cup. England have not looked the cup material. It is more hype than substance.

The home team scored a third win in their group thanks to the efforts of the Poles, Klose and Podolski. Klose now has 9 goals in the world cup and with Ronaldo not in a position to add to his tally, the German can catch up with the all time goal scorer in the history of the world cup.

The world cup is over for first timers Trinidad and Tobago. Their progress so far is nothing short of remarkable.


New material has been added to the Ganguly saga. It is surprising that the former Indian captain has decided to challenge Jagmohan Dalmiya for the control of the Cricket Association of Bengal. Ganguly has received the backing of the government of West Bengal. Politics, for sure, makes strange bedfellows.

Is this the Ganguly way of distancing himself from the Dalmiya ? Does Ganguly think that his ouster from the Indian team is not due to poor form but because of the changes in the power equation ? Has Sharad Pawar given any indication that such a move would clear the way for the rehabilitation of the left hander ? Or has Ganguly decided to finally hang his cricketing boots and take to cricket politics in a big way, in the time honoured Indian way ? That would mean taking the ultimate revenge on his ‘enemies’.

In any case, there are only questions, no answers.

Friday, June 16, 2006




Argentina put up an awesome display to demolish Serbia and Montenegro. It was not that the team from the Balkans is ordinary. S&M, in fact, topped the European qualifying group that also included Spain. The final scoreline of 6-0 in favour of the Argentines would suggest otherwise.

The quality of the football on show from Riquelme, Crespo, Tevez and others was simply superb. Lionel Messi made and entry well into the second half and he made a great impact. He scored one goal and made another.

At times, Argentina was toying with the opponent team. A greater number of goals looked a possibility the way the South Americans went about their task.

The quality that separates the Argentines from Brazil’s Samba boys is the strong defensive game alongwith the touch that is so typical of South America. With today’s show, Argentina has simply reinforced the belief that it can go all the distance.

But the ultimate question is whether the Argentines have peaked a little too early. Of course, there is no cause for complaint as the other favourite teams have so far put up very ordinary displays.


The first round matches have entered the second stage with England, Germany and Ecuador having made sure of qualifying to the knock out phase. Germany scored 4 goals in the first match of the finals. But the hosts found the going tough in the match against Poland. The winner could only be scored in the injury time. England also made heavy weather in both their matches. The winner in the opening match came from the Paraguayans. The first timer Trinidad and Tobago caused a lot of problems for the English before Crouch and Gerrard scored the late goals. The surprise packet is Ecuador who scored 3 against Costa Rica. The South Americans were able to beat the fancied Poland in their first match.

Brazil was not convincing in the match against Croatia. There were few flashes of brilliance that is a signature of the Samba boys. There is some concern over the health of Ronaldo. Hope things are not going to take us back to the finals of 1998.

Argentina looked solid in the first match and so too the Czech Republic. Of course, one has to realize that the Czechs were playing against the United States.

Spain proved to be the best of all the teams. But in the past also the Spanish only flattered to deceive.

Friday, June 09, 2006


My father is interested in sports and games and that is the reason why my siblings and me do the same. My mother has the habit of making expert comments when she is least expected to. The football world cup is going to kick off from today and last night there was the mandatory discussion in the house.

My father was dismayed that countries like Togo and Trinidad and Tobago have made it to the biggest prize in football while India with a population that is one sixth of the worlds’ is down in the list. Many theories have been offered to explain the failure in mainstream sporting events (read non-cricket). A common reason is the lack of facilities and the lack of government support and patronage to sports like football. Notwithstanding the presence of people like K P S Gill, Priyaranjan Dasmunshi and Suresh Kalmadi and scores of others who are least interested in the health of sports or the sportspersons, I have a different theory.

As Indians, we don’t have a sporting culture or tradition. How many Indian parents encourage their children to take to sports seriously? How many families treat sporting events as family get togethers? Poverty is often cited as a reason for the lack of attention given to sports. In that case, no world class athlete or sportsperson would have come out of Africa or South America. I have come across parents who do not want to have cable television in the home for the fear of spoiling the children from watching sports and games.

We have awards in sports that are named after mythological characters like Arjuna or Dronacharya. There is no award that is named after a famous athlete. That is something which surely does not inspire Indians to take to sports.

My mother was not very much enthusiastic when my brothers and me used to play. She was more concerned about studies and our careers. The discussion ended when she commented that Indians are more interested in watching daily soaps on the television.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006


The first test between India and the West Indies and the last test match at the Antigua Recreation Ground ended in a draw on the last ball of the match. The Indians who were behind the home team, looked the better side on days four and five, well almost.

Just as the bowlers could not finish in Karachi after the spectacular burst from Pathan, this time also they could not dislodge the tailenders. Then Kamran Akmal was the stumbling block, but Bradshaw and company do not possess similar batting abilities.

The strategy of playing five bowlers did not work in the end. V R V Singh was someone who looked completely lost. At times he just was ambling back to the run up mark and he did not inspire any confidence when the team was looking for wickets. Sreesanth was taken to the cleaners in the first innings but that did not stop him from offering glares and his mouth to the Windies batsmen. What a sight it was! Munaf Patel also looked out of sorts. It was Kumble who kept India in the hunt with able support from the new look Sehwag.

The much vaunted batting line-up came unstuck in the first innings and in the second innings with the pitch showing signs of easing off, the Indian batsmen could make big runs. Also, the bowlers of the home team were also guilty of undermining their side. Probably, they just ran out of gas.

There were few let offs from Indian fielders that proved costly in the end. Jaffer could not latch on to a chance off the blade of Chanderpaul. It is foolish for the slip fielders to stand that far when neither the pitch nor the bowlers were really that fast. Speaking about Chanderpaul, he once again feasted on the Indian bowling. Gayle is just continuing with the form that he showed in the one dayers. Lara once again could not make a big score against India.

With the draw, India have left a great chance to win a test and put the home team under pressure. With that, chances of a series win have also become slim.