Tuesday, May 29, 2007

BACK TO WINNING WAYS!

India trashed Bangladesh at Mirpur and England routed the West Indies at Leeds. Both India and England had not performed well in the World Cup. Of course, England went into the Super 8s whereas India was sent packing in the first round itself.

In the first test at Chittagong, rain played the spoilsport and the match ended in a draw. The late batting effort from Mortaza helped his team avert the follow on. Far away, the batsmen from the Carribbean islands put up a good batting display in the first test. Also, rain prevented the home team a shot at a win.

In the second tests, both England and India posted huge wins. In case of England, Leeds has always been a good ground with the local conditions creating havoc with the visiting batting line-ups. The absence of the likes of Sarwan and Chanderpaul only weakened the batting further. The swing and seam reduced the West Indies to shambles.

India was not expected to face much resistance in the test matches, despite the loss in the World Cup. In the first test, not too many runs could be posted even after the centuries from Sachin and Saurav. That might have given some hope to the home team. But things became clear in the second test. There is no indication on the improvement of Bangladesh in the test matches.

England are a good team in home conditions while India can always put up a fight in sub-continental conditions. England was beaten soundly in Australia while India was defeated in South Africa. Now these two teams are on the winning track.

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FULL SUCCESS!

The victory in the one-day series was followed by the ‘emphatic’ and the ‘crushing’ win in the second test. The team achieved certain milestones and a couple of records were broken. The team returned to India. But there was very little rejoicing on the streets and the airport. For a nation whose fortunes are so closely intertwined to the cricket team, this came as a surprise.

It is true that the average fan was extremely disappointed after the failure at the World Cup. But the recent victories came against Bangladesh.

The top four Indian batsmen scored centuries and this was a first in the history of test cricket. Karthik and Jaffer provided a solid start and this was capitalized by Sachin and Dravid. The bowlers performed well with Zaheer getting a five-wicket haul in the Bangla first innings. Kumble took crucial wickets and Ramesh Powar also added his name to the list of wicket takers.

But all the success has to be taken lightly. Of course, the record books never tell the full story. Sachin scored his 37th ton and in my humble opinion, this is the worst from the master. For a long part of the innings, he scratched and edged. Karthik got a life early in the innings.

The fielding was shoddy to say the least. A number of sitters were dropped.

Friday, May 25, 2007

DEBATABLE DECISIONS

The Indian team management decided to open the innings in the test matches with the help of a makeshift opener, Dinesh Kaartick. This meant no place in the team for both V.V.S.Laxman and Yuvraj Singh.

It is to be remembered that Kaartick is also a wicketkeeper and the team has the regular keeper M.S.Dhoni in the playing eleven. So the decision is strange.

Dhoni does not inspire much confidence with the keeping gloves. He is awkward as far as the collections to the spinners are concerned. Probably, Dhoni took to keeping as an afterthought. He is not a natural when it comes to wicketkeeping. Ugly is the word that comes to mind when describing the wicketkeeping of Dhoni. In this context, it is unwise to have two keepers in the playing eleven when proven batsmen are sitting in the dressing room.

In the past, there were few instances when two wicketkeepers, Kiran More and Chandrakant Pandit were in eleven. But then the situation was different with players down with illness and injury. But Laxman and Yuvraj are fit and healthy.

If the management is committed to find an opener, Gambhir might have been a better choice. Kaartick is, at best, an ad-hoc opener.

Is the fact that Bangladesh is the opponent that such decisions are made or are they the indicators of the things to come?

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TEST MATCHES ARE NOT IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST

When Nimbus won the rights to telecast cricket matches and predictably the state broadcaster Doordarshan refused to pay for the feed, there was a lot of heat. Public was disappointed for they were deprived of the action.

The Government also stepped into the picture with the Minister coming up with a bill to check the anti-people actions of private broadcasters. This led Nimbus to share the feed with Doordarshan.

Now the test matches in Bangladesh are shown only by Nimbus on its channel New Sports. The one dayers were also shown on Doordarshan. But there is no controversy now.

Is there no public interest involved when test matches are concerned?

Is the public showing its disappointment after the failure of India in the world cup?

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Thursday, May 24, 2007

AC MILAN WINS

In the much-anticipated finals of the UEFA Champions League, AC Milan beat Liverpool in Athens. Liverpool were the winners in 2005 when the Italians squandered a 3-0 lead from the first half to go down on penalities.

This time Kaka could not score a goal and Steven Gerrard could not inspire his teammates to repeat the magic of Istanbul.

Questions are always going to be asked for AC Milan were allowed to take part in this year’s competition since they were involved in the match-fixing scandal of last season.
It helps that the owner of the club happens to be one of the richest and powerful men in Italy.

Liverpool is not one of the glamour clubs of Europe or for that matter in England either. But the arrival of Rafael Benitez has in a way taken the club to its glorious days of the past. The club seems to be content in playing second fiddle to the likes of Manchester United and Chelsea when it comes to success in the English Premier League. They have just done enough in the EPL to stay in contention for the next season as far as the Champions League is concerned.

Carlo Ancelloti has done it as a Coach and also as a player. Let us not forget the presence of the ageless Paolo Maldini who became the oldest player to take part in the finals. He is reported to be in talks with his club over a new contract.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

GREAT BENCHMARKS

It is billed as ‘The Revenge Series’. The Indian team won the one-day series by winning two matches of three. One match was washed out.

Dhoni who received a lot of flak after the failure in the World Cup came good in the first match and he won the Man of the Series award. Gautam Gambhir scored a ton in the series to justify his selection in place of Sehwag. The bowlers too, took wickets.

The first test match ended in a draw with almost three days of play lost due to rain. Sachin and Saurav scored 100s to add to their career tally. Hard as they tried, the Indians could not enforce the follow-on and let the home team escape from the jail.

Predictably, the media has gone to town about the revival of the team. It is quite a revival with the success coming against a team whose status was, till recently, not up to the international level!

In the recently concluded Sultan Azlan Shah hockey tournament, India secured the third position. The hockey team also witnessed changes both at the level of the coach and the players. It was indeed an achievement that the Indian team could reach the last four of an international tournament after a while. Pleased with this success, the ruling body of hockey in the country announced a cash reward of Rs.50,000 each to the players. Suddenly, Indian hockey is in a revival mode, despite the Union Sports Ministry removing the sport from the priority list.

There are some interesting parallels that I wish to draw from the world of politics. The BJP put up a dismal show in the state of Uttar Pradesh. But the leaders of the party are confident of doing well in the general elections of 2009. It appears, that they are afraid of the anti-incumbency factor. Similar is the case with the political party of India-the Congress. The top leadership of this party also wants us to wait till 2009. Interestingly, both the national parties talked a lot about their revival before and during the elections.

Looks like the entire country is in a revival mode. The new benchmarks are really great!

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Monday, May 21, 2007

GREAT TIMING

With the French Open coming up, things were not looking good for Roger Federer. The top ranked player lost to clay court specialists and questions were asked. The Spaniard, Raphael Nadal, was on the other hand, adding to his long winning streak on clay. Things could not get worse with Federer parting ways with his long time coach, Tony Roche. Suddenly, the prospect of a Grand slam appeared to be impossibility.

In the first set in the finals of the Hamburg Masters, it was Nadal all the way. Another clay court title was, it seemed, going his way. But from the second set, it was Federer who put up a superb display. The third set was won without dropping a game.

This augurs well for the French Open and fans are hoping for a Federer triumph. That would be a tough ask given the challenges posed by Nadal and others who favour the red clay of Paris.

The Grand slam chase is not over, at least for this season.

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Wednesday, May 02, 2007

LACK OF A SPORTING CULTURE

India lost to Bangladesh and Sri Lanka in the world cup. This loss prevented the team advancing to the Super 8s, despite the thumping win over Bermuda.

New Delhi lost out to the South Korean city of Incheon to host Asian Games, despite the best efforts of the likes of Suresh Kalmadi.

FIFA head Sepp Blatter visited India in the company of the Chief of Asian Football Confederation. Blatter made a visit to the big clubs of Calcutta and their facilities. After the visit, Blatter remarked that the clubs could not make much improvement to their original facilities of more than 100 years. The Chief of AFC warned that Indian football does not have the quality to compete with the best teams even after 100 years.

Predictably, the defeat of India and the failure to host the Asian Games resulted in a lot of heat and buck passing. The blame game has not ended and the wheels are in a sort of a perpetual motion.

These three events should not be looked or dealt in isolation. They are the symptoms of a malady. It is well known that politicians or at least wannabe politicians today are after sports bodies. The only thing that they know and take care is themselves. Often the trade-off is the well being of the sportspersons and the sport itself.

The Ministry of Sports and Youth Affairs is often headed by people who are very old or have the least inclination to show any interest in sports and games except for the game of verbal volleys of the worst kind.

However, the poor showing of the country in the sphere of international sporting arena has to do a lot with the sporting culture of the lack of it. As a nation, sporting pursuits are not given any priority. We have educational institutions where there are no playgrounds. Parents abhor the idea that their wards take part in sports and games. The idea of getting dirty and taking bruises is something that is loathed upon in a big way.

There are no instances where watching sporting events in the stadia is a family affair. The only exception is that the family gets together is to watch soap operas of the worst kind.

Awards instituted by the Government to honour sportspersons are even named after mythical superheroes.

So, let us not regard a sporting failure as a national disgrace. After all, we are firm believers in the idea that participation is more important that winning.

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