Saturday, January 27, 2007

COOL SWISS VS. RED HOT CHILE




The men’s final of the Australian Open 2007 features Roger Federer and Fernando Gonzalez. The two men reached the finals after annihilating their opponents. Federer did not look that convincing until the semifinals. Andy Roddick beat the Swiss World number 1 in the event preceding the first Grand Slam of the year. This made the American a real contender for the top prize. He also looked the part until he ran into the ‘Federer Express’.

I also believe that Federer keeps the best for the top players but even by his lofty standards the semifinals was simply awesome. Roddick was handed out a tennis master class. Federer won 10 games in a row and in the process, took a set to love. Some of the shots were out of the world. He defied all principles of physics and geometry and made the ball obey his racquet. One shot in the first set took the beating. Federer was on the move and Roddick made a shot that looked like a winner but the champion took the ball on the half volley and took the breath away. In each of the three sets, Roddick was broken in the first game.

Federer looked supremely confident of his abilities and his instincts. He challenged the rulings and every time Federer was proved correct.

The other finalist is the Chilean, Gonzalez who pulverized the German, Tommy Haas. The Chilean also looked awesome in the previous rounds when he disposed off the likes of Rafael Nadal.

It remains to be seen whether the cool Swiss overcomes the Chilean or the red hot Chile melts away the ice.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

NOT A STRAIGHT DRIVE, COLONEL

After his playing days were over, Dilip Vengsarkar wrote a weekly column in The Hindu called ‘The Straight Drive’. As the Chairman of the selection panel, his moves are not as straight as some of his drives during his playing days.

The decision to make Sachin the vice-captain for the one-day series against the West Indies defies all logic. Vengsarkar and company has justified the decision on the ground that the vice-captain ought to be experienced. Since Sachin is more experienced than Dravid, the speculation is rife that the Mumbai batsman is likely to be made captain for a third time.

This time it is not a straight drive, it is a cross batted heave that seldom pays dividend to the batsman.

MORE ON GIBBS

The reaction of the father of Herschelle Gibbs after the South African batsman was banned from two matches after making ‘racial comments’ on the Pakistanis is in poor taste. Gibbs senior attacked the ICC for its knee-jerk response. The ICC is itself to be blamed for these kind of reactions, for it hardly covered itself in glory during the dark days of the match fixing episode.

One thing that has come out of the outburst of Gibbs senior is the fact that Pakistan has allowed two of its players to go to South Africa even after being found guilty of consuming performance enhancing substances. The ICC has a lot to answer.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

A GOOD CALL

The ICC match referee Chris Broad rightly handed out a two-test suspension to Herschelle Gibbs of South Africa. The South African player was heard making some remarks on the Pakistani players that were deemed ‘racial’. The ICC in its Code of Conduct makes it clear that:

“Players and/or team officials shall not verbally abuse, assault, intimidate or attempt to assault or intimidate any umpire, spectator, referee, player or team official. Nor shall any player or team official engage in any conduct towards or speak to any other player, umpire, spectator, referee or team official in a manner which offends, insults, humiliates, intimidates, disparages or vilifies the other person on the basis of that person’s race, religion, colour, descent or national or ethnic origin”.

Gibbs has decided to appeal on the grounds that the remarks were not meant for public consumption but only for his teammates. Further, he was provoked by a section of the crowd into making such a statement.

The cake in this whole issue should go to the coach of the South African team who believes that the stump microphones are the reason for Gibbs getting caught.

Monday, January 15, 2007

A STEP IN THE BACKWARD DIRECTION

The Indian selectors took a real step backward by naming Sachin Tendulkar as the Vice-captain for the forthcoming series against the Windies. Sehwag was stripped of the post midway through the tour of South Africa and Laxman was elevated to the post. Now, with both Sehwag and Laxman out of favour, the selectors had to find someone to deputise for Dravid.

A two time former captain is being asked to be the Vice-captain and that begs the question over the so-called forward-looking policy of M/s. Chappell and company. It is even more surprising that Sachin actually took up the job.

Is this a way of giving more role to Sachin in the decision making process?

Is this a way of making Sachin take up greater responsibility in the larger interests of the team?

Whatever the reason, it is something that only Indian cricket can be proud of.

COMMONWEALTH BANK TRISERIES

FOR SECOND PLACE

As expected, Australia won the first two matches of the Commonwealth Bank tri-series. The wins over England and New Zealand were comfortable.

The third match features New Zealand and England. England has lost Kevin Pietersen to injury. It is a pity since Pietersen looked the best English batsman on tour. The return of Michael Vaughn after a long injury layoff has certainly freed Flintoff from the burden of captaincy. But Vaughn does not have the one day record that some of his top order contemporaries of other teams boast of.

New Zealand has done reasonably well with the limited resources. But the injuries to the likes of Oram and Styris have weakened the team. The failure of Astle to fire at the top has surely tested the Kiwis in recent times.

The match will go a long way in deciding the second placed team in the tournament.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

AUSTRALIAN OPEN 2007

LOOKING AHEAD
The first tennis Grand Slam of the year kicks off on Monday in Melbourne. The win of Andy Roddick over Roger Federer in the warm-up event makes the American a genuine contender for the top prize. The win may only be an aberration but Federer is still beatable. Of course, champions have the knack of shifting gears on the big occasion.

Nadal can match anyone stroke for stroke and step for step. But outside of the clay courts of Paris, the Spaniard has not done too well in the big events. Safin can on his day upset even the best. But the Russian has done precious little ever since he won the Open a few years ago. The home favourite, Lleyton Hewitt is always a serious challenger.

In the ladies part of the event, Sharapova and Mauresmo look the best bets with the withdrawal of Henin-Hardenne.

For the Indian fans, the ‘Indian-Express’ still continues to be the fascination. Although Paes and Bhupathi play with different partners, their progress will be keenly watched. Sania has played well in the recent days, suggesting some improvement in her form.

THE USUAL STUFF

The selection of the team to face the West Indies in the first of the four one-day matches at home, is hardly surprising, except for the recall of Suresh Raina and the dumping of Laxman. Raina proved to be a failure for a large part of his international exposure and a few good outings in the Ranji trophy earned his recall. At the same time, the selectors could afford to omit Laxman after giving him very little opportunity in the shorter version of the game.

The dropping of Sehwag was on expected lines and so was the recall of Saurav Ganguly. It is a pity that the man who could play the most attacking game, is on the sidelines.

Vengsarkar and company have hardly earned any brownie points on the way things were handled in the tour of South Africa. Munaf played the third test even when there were doubts over his fitness. The worst part was the decision of the team management to let Sehwag partner Jaffer in the third test. All these happened when the Chairman of Selectors was with the team.

Truly, Indian cricket doesn’t cease to throw up surprises.

A CASE OF SOUR GRAPES?

Orissa managed to beat Assam and qualified for the Elite group of the Ranji trophy after a gap of four years. A match which was supposed to end in a draw ended as a win for the host. Assam secured a slender lead of 2 runs in the first innings and that seemingly ended the hopes of Orissa. However, the likes of Debashish Mohanty had other ideas.

For a state starved of any sporting success, this result is a positive. But not yet, as the Assam Cricket Association has launched an official protest. The team from the Northeast alleges that the pitch at the Barabati stadium in Cuttack was tampered to benefit the home team.

Is this allegation a case of sour grapes?

Would any team stoop so low?
Why shouldn’t the victory be attributed to better adaptability to home conditions?

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