Tuesday, September 30, 2008


Yes... A lot of things just happened in a little while.

The Bangladeshis toured Australia for a 3 match ODI series. No comments. No surprises in the result there...

Graeme Hick had retired from all forms of cricket, after playing nearly 24 decades, scoring 100+ domestic centuries and 40000+ domestic runs. The Worcs will remember him for ages. A king, has retired. Even though, he was around 45 years old, he was just as competitive as anyone else in the team. And, along with him, retires Darren Gough, whom England will remember as one of the most efficient bowlers of this past generation.
The US open!!! Federer won it... How many times on a trot? 6? Guess so. It was a much needed victory for him, after the traumatic Roland Garros and the epic Wimbledon defeats. Andy Murray was his opponent this year, who had crushed Nadal's dream of booking his first US open finals spot A not so difficult victory for Federer, but, it was interesting to note that there were not more than a couple of aces altogether in the whole match (one each, note pls)! And, Serena defeated Jankovic for the ladies' title. The American Bryan brothers had it easy in the men doubles finals.

The Barclay's Premier League got underway a little more than a month ago. After 6 matches, the big four are placed pretty well on the top half of the board. Manchester United, having played a lot away from home, a little behind the other big names though. Arsenal suffered two defeats, the one to Hull city (What the HULL happened???), will be having more impact on them, I guess. Liverpool and Chelsea are having an easy time. Chelsea have improved their scoring rate dramatically this season. I don't remember the Blues leading on goal difference at any stage of the tournament anytime before! This season is just getting hotter, with team like Manchester City eyeing top spots.

The F1 is going tight, with very less space to guess the championship winner. Hamilton is leading by 7 points, with around half a dozen or so races to go. Raikkonen, Massa, Kubica, and more in hot pursuit. The Singapore Night race was Awesome!!!

In the Major League Baseball, the Yankees had an emotional time last week, when they bid adieu to their historic Yankees Stadium, where their superstar, Babe Ruth hit the first homie! Alex Rodriguez was expected to hit the last, but the Orioles' pitcher made sure he only had a walk to get the bases loaded in the bottom ninth, scores level. One out! Two out! Were the emotional crowd going to have to wait longer for the farewell party??? NO! The batter hits the ball past the gaping pitcher, and the match was Yankees'. A fitting ending to the monument of the game.

Cricket again, India hosted Australia and New Zealand for a List-A tournament. Kiwis were subdued and India chased an emphatic target in the last league match (a dead rubber) to reach the final with all hopes up. The finals, was a hopeless show. Australia scored 300+, India skittled for a paltry score less than 150. The jinx of the Finals is not restricted to the Indian seniors' cricket team alone!!!

As many as thirteen Bangladeshi cricketers have signed up with the ICL, the so called rebel league after being overlooked by the IPL and having rows with their own cricket managing board. Now, they host the Kiwis, with the ICC keeping an eye over their test status, where they have no victory to rejoice,

One day after the above news was out, Sri Lankan Cricket board headed by their world cup winning Captain, Arjuna Ranatunga, lifted the ban on the Lankan ICL players from taking part in their domestic league.

BCCI has now allowed foreign players to take part in the Ranji Trophy tournament, presently one foreign player a team! That'll be almost twenty. I hope they choose good ones from countries like Bangladesh, Kenya or Zimbabwe. Or other member nations affiliated to the ICC.

The United States lifted te Ryder Cup this time around in their European tour!

Coming soon... UEFA Champions League, the European domestic soccer leagues, Europa Cup, The cricket's Champions League (oh Hell!), the all new NBA season (oh yea!!!), Australia tour of India and much more...

Stick around!!!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

KP leads England to Glory!

After a very happening test series, South Africa and England were now going to lock horns in the 5 match ODI series. England had a few experiments to carry out. They had a new captain, who had lost his first match as captain to the touring Kiwis a few week ago, as the then captain Collingwood was banned for a three ODIs. England also decided to call back 'keeper Mathew Prior in their endless search for the best replacement for Alec Stewart since his retirement a few years ago. Harmison and Flintoff's return was most anticipated all through the summer. Samit Patel also featured in as a spinner. South Africa, playing its first major ODI tournament since winning in Bangladesh in March-April, had concerns in its bowling department. Steyn was just returning from injury. Morkel brothers were not in the team that played the first ODI at Headingly.
The first ODI saw KP and Freddie apply themselves well and then rule the roost as the innings progressed to take England to a massive 275 in their quota of 50 overs. KP's innings was full of class, and Freddie's innings was full of hunger to score and make a memorable comeback. He did both in exceptionally good manner. South African openers started runnig away with the show, with Gibbs returning to the side in prime form along with the imposing figure of captain Smith going hard on English seamers. After only a brief spell from Broad and Jimmy, harmison came in to bowl and almost got rid of Smith. Most South Africans got starts but didn't stay long enough at the crease to win the game. KP wisely brought in Patel to remove the pace on the ball. Freddie and his pal, Harmison bowled well in the middle overs. After Duminy and Botha left, SOuth Africa had not much hope, and KP celebrated his first victory as captain.

The second match, played at the Notts, where England made the record by featuring the same test side for the 6th consecutive time, earlier this season. By the time I could return after dinner to the TV set, the match was almost over. Stuart Broad ripped through half the South African line up, which scored a mere 83, with Andre Nel top scoring with 13, with only two others to give him company with double digit scores. Freddie and Harmy took care of the other half! Exploding Prior and steady Bell took England home within the drinks break. The day/night score didn't need much of the flood lights.

In the third encounter, England amassed a huge total, thanks to contributions from the willows of Bell and Flintoff. And, Samit Patel did a good job with the bat towards the end and ended up with a match winning 5 wicket haul. Is England’s search for an ODI spinner over? Only time will tell. As usual, Harmy and Freddie took care of the middle overs. Anderson was at his best, swinging the white duke at 90+ mph. And England had won the series already with two games to spare!

In the rain-reduced fourth match at Lords’, South Africa were scoring at a healthy pace when rain fell down and England were set a target of about 135, to be achieved in 20 overs max! Now, people got their share of the T20 action, the scheduled T20 got washed off due to rain, before the ODI series. In this match, English openers faltered early on, but “Ace” Shah and KP started swinging the match in their favour. And when the required run rate was just creeping up, and KP was removed by Botha, in came Flintoff and wasted no time in the middle. He scored a breathtaking 31 in 17 minutes, having faced only a dozen balls, creamed with 5 boundaries and a six! England led the series by an unassailable 4-0 margin.
The fifth ODI was washed away, with not more than 10 minutes played. So, England had a clean sweep in the ODI series. England struck good form with both the bat and the ball. Kevin Pietersen’s captainship was laudable. He was pretty good at taking the “right decisions at the right time”. Anderson, Broad, Harmison and Flintoff bowled well to keep the run rate in check. Samit Patel rolled his arm over well in the middle overs to provide variety to the English bowling attack. Flintoff and KP’s presence in the middle order helped the English line up shine well. Bell, at the top of the order played his role smoothly.

A very long exciting English home season comes to an end. England has a lot to celebrate now, after the victorious ODI series.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

India completes Revenge

his year, the two side have seen themselves in the same field on numerous occasions. It all started in Australia in the tri-nations trophy, where ultimately, India prevailed over Sri Lanka. Then, it was the Asia Cup, where Jayawardene’s excellence in captaincy and Mendis’ mysteriousness helped Sri Lanka defeat India for the title.

Now, the two teams faced off in Sri Lanka. India was bolstered by the presence of the ODI captain, Dhoni and Sri Lanka welcomed their star legend Jayasurya into the format he still plays as good as ever. After the hosts won the test series 2-1 in emphatic fashion, the ODI series was bound to be interesting.

The turning tracks of Dambulla were welcoming both the sides, laden with quality spinners. In the first game, SL skittled India for a paltry total and chased it down quite easily. It looked like Sri Lanka had complete control over the game and that Indian team now lacked something. Both spinners were having a good time. But, in the game, India did the very same to Sri Lanka, though the chasing seemed a bit shaky. The toss was becoming an important factor. Zaheer Khan, Munaf Patel and Praveen Kumar were in goor form and did most of the damage.

Now, tied 1-1, the series moved to the Premadasa stadium, Colombo. Three day-night encounters to be played. Toss was even more important now. The ball swings under the light in these conditions in the two-paced pitch. Dhoni was lucky with the toss in the third game, and decided to bat first. The young opener, Kohli played a calm role at the top of the order. The middle order in the able presence of strokeplayer Raina and depemdable captain, Dhoni chugged along well and put up a sensible much needed partnership. Both were fluent against the spinners. Mendis was going at almost run-a-ball and picked a couple of wickets. Murali was treated with caution by Dhoni and Raina. After Raina's departure due to an unnecessary run-out, Rohit struck good form at the right time. Himself along with the captain raised a half century partnership in good time. the Lankan bowlers did well to prevent India from reaching a tall score. Tushara and Vaas bowled well to make sure the target seemed reachable. Once the Lankans stepped in to bat under the lights, the Indian pacers made use of the swinging conditions to make the ball to all the talkings. Four of the top five were in the pavilion before the end of 10 overs and Jayawardene was standing fort with Dilshan who was looking to open up. Just after drinks break, Munaf seperated Dilshan from Jayawardene. Munaf maintained good line and length outside the off of the right hander. Later in the innings, Tushara and Jayawardene had a partnership going on well and Sri Lanka seemed to be coming back into the match. The merciless Zack returned to remove Tushara and Sri Lanka were done in for 204. Jayawardene scored a beautiful 94, though in vain. It was one of the best innings of the series.

The heavens opened up the day the fourth match was to be played, but thankfully things were calm on the reserve day. Dhoni, lucky again with the toss. Yet again, Kohli started the innings well whereas his opening partner Gambhir fell soon and Yuvi scored a duck, caught at slips, to give Vaas his 400th victim, which had been eluding him for almost a week. Raina and Kohli continued to keep the run rate going. The boundaries were hard to come by, thanks to tight line and length by the Lankan bowlers. But, there weren't many "surprise deliveries" to trouble the batsmen. Kohli was consumed soon after he compiled his 50, when he tried to drive Thushara, but played on to the stumps. Dhoni and Raina paired up once again to blunt the Sri Lankan bowling. The spinners were ineffective. And the two went on to put up around 140 runs for the fourth wicket, when Thushara struck twice to remove both of them in two overs. then, Mendis removed Rohit and the last 5 wickets fell for a paltry 15 runs. Tushara picked his first 5-for, his second best performance was a 2 wicket haul! Chasing a target of almost 260, under the lights was always going to be tough. But, the care-free legendary opener, Sanath never looked at all those words. He started the lankan innings in a jiffy and took a liking against the bowling of Praveen Kumar, wo had to be replaced after his four overs, when Sanath unleashed his strokes-of-fury. His partner just watched....just watched....just watched. After half an hour, he was removed by Munaf. He didn't score in the 18 balls he faced till then! Soon, run rate slowed down. Sangakkara chopped on to the stumps and after compiling a quick fire 60, Sanath was removed by Harbhajan. The middle order did little to help the cause and soon, the Lankans were staring down the barrel....errr...down the series. A valiant 40 by the emerging all-rounder Tushara was a good phase for the Lankans before the end drew close. Zaheer Khan took care of Tushara's cameo to give India its maiden ODI series victory in the Emerald Isles.

When all was lost in the series, Jayawardene won the toss in the last match, in which the SL side was playing to salvage some pride. Powered by Udawatte, Warnapura and Mubarak's steady innings and later by Tushara's blistering show, Sri Lanka put up a decent 227. Finally the Lankan bowlers got to bowl under the lights, and they did it quite beautifully. Kulasekara and Mendis did most of the damage to skittle India and win by a massive margin. Apart from Kohli, nobody was playing around well for a considerable length of time. Kulasekara ripped apart the top order just in time for Fernando and mendis to cleaan up the tail. The rain-break after an hour into the second innings helped the Lankan seamers even better.

India, came back well after the loss in the test series to win the one day series, their first in Sri Lanka, with a game to spare! Captain Dhoni was named the man-of the-series for his consistant performance with the bat. No, India gears up to host Australia in autumn. Oh boy! i'm waiting for it!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Chinese Fireworks brighten Beijing Games

The Chinese did prepare well for the Olympics, they had the city of Beijing at its scintillating best and so were the other host-cities; but the icing on the cake was the splendid performance of their athletes to bring home (BRING home????) their first Olympics victory. They were so dominating, that the Olympics looked like ‘no-contest’ to them. When was the last time the U.S. of A. were so far away from the numero uno spot, in terms of the number of Gold-medals won.

Take a bow, China!

The Chinese dominated many fields, like, table-tennis, badminton, floor gymnastics and of-course, sync swimming. They also had a nice time in other fields, which was a major factor to overtake the haul of the U.S. of A. this time. The U.S. of A. had a good run, but in most cases had to settle for silver or bronze.

From the point of view of not-SO-great stats and follower of athletics, but just a guy who enjoys the Olympics, I can chart just a few things. A non-exhaustive list of achievements, of course…

First of all, if at all this Olympics is to be remembered by an athlete’s name, you can call it Phelps’ Olympics without a second thought. 8 games he participated in, and 8 gold medals he did win. He is one man who kept his promise even in a world class competition. At-least 6 of them were in world record time! Ask him about his daily schedule, surely you won’t believe your ears. I would say. If he can cover himself with gold every Olympics with that sort of schedule, I’m considering the option of trying to participate in the London Games. 16 Olympic medals and 8 golds in one particular edition, both became new records. The record of 7 golds held by Mark Spitz since ’72 Munich was unimaginably broken!

The 100m men dash! Three names will flash in your mind immediately, whether or not you know them. Before the final, there came one blow – Tyson Gay did not qualify for the finals! Then came the second blow… in less than 10 seconds of the finals, the world was to be shocked again to find Asafa Powell not on the podium. But, I don’t think that was the reason for that shocked, stoned, gasping, ‘searching for oxygen’ look on the face of 90000 odd people in the artistic Bird’s Nest and probably another few billions of international viewers and followers. It must have been Powell’s fellow athlete, Usain Bolt, who had enough time in the world to start late, race ahead of 7 others, look back over his shoulders and start celebrating atleast 20 m before the finish line and still finish with a world record time of 9.69 seconds!!!!! He also had a world record lead over the second placed athlete! Unbelievable? Believe it! (sorry, Repley’s! but, you would’ve said the same). And he came back again to win the 200 m gold too! His lightning-bolt celebration was an instant hit!

In tennis, debutant Nadal made this year even more special, clinching the gold. Federer, who was beaten by Blake, won the men’s doubles gold with Stanislas Wawrinka. In the women category, the all-Russian final saw Elina Dementieva clinched the gold medal, defeating Dinara Safina. If my memory serves me right, I think the Williams sisters clinched gold in doubles event.

Soccer saw Brazil winning the final, and after a long wait, the U.S. of A. won the basket ball event.

The U.S. of A. though didn’t have anything to cheer in the field of boxing this time around. Holifield didn’t seem to be happy at all. He blamed boxers’ hunger for money more than glory for this bad patch in their boxing history.

Kenyan, Samuel Wanjiru was the winner of the marathon event, considered to be THE race of any Olympics, hence he can be proud to be the winner of the Olympics! The Ethiopians, Bekele and Tirunesh Dibaba won both the 5 km and 10 km in the men’s and women’s category respectively.

An important point to be noticed, the Beijing games saw 32 records being broken, a record in itself that it now shares with the Munich Games!

From an Indian’s point of view, this Olympics, by far was the best one, as India won a gold and two bronze medals. A country of 1.1 billion odd people managed 3 medals, and this happens to be the best performance. It will be some time for India to make a memorable performance in the Olympics. Prior to the Olympics, I was very disappointed as India failed to make the cut for hockey, the event in which India has won numerous gold medals.

So, the Olympics was a grand success. The Chinese government and citizens of Beijing made the Olympics a memorable one for all athletes. The Games had it all – success, failures, shocks, both sweet and bitter, glory and above all, pride!

Net edition, four years later, will be held in London. Only time will tell what is in store there…

Photo : Telegraph.com