Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Pakistan - T20 champions, in traditional style

Terror strikes, kept away from fun tournaments, boards declining to tour them, lack of preparation for the tournament, list of unfit players and new comers all seemed to bring the world to a conclusion that Pakistan won't repeat any of their heroics displayed in the previous version. But there they were - clinical display to better their last show and hence, become the T20 Champions 2009, second time lucky... More than luck it was sheer dominance and hard work.

If there was one team that was coming into the format with the same classical approach, it is Pakistan. Most other teams were depended on big hitters or bowlers of a different dimension. Pakistan introduced youngsters at the big stage and got the best out of them too. The big surprise to most people was the early exit of the Australians by their group members, WI and SL. Both teams had it easy against the Aussies who are now suffering their worst phase in cricket for atleast a couple of decades of my memory, which may worsen if they lose the Ashes this english summer.

Most other teams had it easy to the super 8 stages (Ireland beat Bangladesh in the run to the super8, the only exception otherwise). Four deserving teams - SA, WI, SL and Pakistan moved into the semifinal stage. South Africa were dominant in every department. West Indies, led by their captain Gayle and some inspirational performance by Simmon, Bravo and their pace batter complemented by Big Benn took them through to the knock out stages. SL banking on Dilshans 'hit over the keeper for freebies' tactics and spin twins helped them through easily to the top 4. Pakistan came from the ashes to beat NZ quite comfortably. This needs a special mention that Gul was the first bowler to rip a 5-for in T20. Michelle for him. Not many have had even a Michelle in T20s, let alone more than one 5-fors.

Semi finals. I was hoping to see a clash of cricket's two most beautiful art-schools, WI and Pakistan clash in the finals. While Pakistan were able to tame the South Africans in a good match, WI went down to Sri Lanka pretty much the same way as they did in their group match. So, though my wish wasn't granted, atleast i was happy Pakistan got a good team to prove its worth against.

The final, Lords. with a good all round performance, Lankan batsman were tamed and Lankan bowlers were milked and spanked to bring about the easy victory. Afridi was named the man of the match, and the leading scorer, Dilshan was given the man of the series award.

A great moment for Pakistan cricket. It was in tithers, and now its on top of the world. 'In their face' to anyone who kept them away from cricketing world! Its time to rebuild the team and start the journey again from where they left. Lot of plus from this tournament - Gul's presence helped sofen the tension, Afridi's calmness while batting ad bowling, Ajmal fitting into Saqlain's shoes! Its all coming together for Pakistan. Just one point is left to be proven - consistency. If only they could put on a consistent show in the years to come, the good old days will be back. As of now, they face an uphill task in their tour of the Emerald Isles.

In the women's edition... the English Ladies had an easy victory over the kiwis to cap their excellent run in the tournament that went parallel to the Men's edition.

Up & coming :-
India tour of WI - June 26th onwards, four ODIs
Bangladesh tour of WI - July, two Tests, three ODIs and one T20
Pakistan tour of Sri Lanka - July, three Tests, five ODIs and a T20
Ashes - July onwards - five tests. followed by the & match ODI series

Stay tuned. Test is best, and its back again on the cricketing map.

Monday, June 15, 2009

L.A. (Lakers) - Where amazing Happened. Viva la LAKERS

Seven years, since any reward, one hard year since the loss to the rivals Celtics, with stern determination and hunger and frustration, the Lakers had a point or two or three of many more to prove this season, and what a way to prove it!



Man, never gets so emotional.

First Championship in seven years. The years included the exit of perennial all-star Shaq, Lakers not making to playoffs and Kobe getting fussed up with his stay with the Lakers. But then, the team was threaded together by Coach Phil and Kobe. Fish came in, Odom joined us, Farmar and Ariza both UCLA, had a happy get-together again, Bynum was drafted, legendary Bill Walton's son, Luke joined hands with lakers. Gasol was the big catch. To fill Shaq's shoes is not easy, for him to have fitted very well into the side is very very very commendable.

Lakers had fire in their eyes... They had a great run in the regular season and finished on top by a country mile over the rest in the western conference. This included victories over Celtics at both Staples and the big Christmas present - VICTORY OVER CELTICS @ BOSTON. Whatta treat. Lakers were the first team to break the unbelieavable home record of the Cavs. Cavs missed Bulls' record of 40-1 at home when they lost their last home game to the Hawks :( . Lebron was the best in the regular season and was awarded the MVP of regular season. Congrats, King.

Now, the playoffs...
Lakers had to face Utah first up. With just a little hiccup in a loss, lakers mopped them up to set a clash with the Houston Rockets. Tough on paper, but there were tougher things to come.

Rockets pushed, pushed hard, pushed harder... They lost Yao and T-mac to injuries, but still kept their hopes of reaching the conf finals, but after both teams losing a home game each, Lakers went on to win the game 7 at home.

Next, what was supposed to be Lakers' biggest test - the Nuggets, was cooking up well. Elsewhere, Celtics found it tough to contain the Magic without the services of the star forward - KG. Magic to meet the Cavs. Mouth watering ppl, mouth watering.

First two games in either conference finals were closer than close can ever be. Cle and Lal lost a home game. Next up, lakers found form to win one at Denver and then Den pulled one back to tie it up at 2-2. This match had many other problems before it could be staged, that was some fight with the WWE to claim the Pepsi arena for the rare 'NBA Conf finals at Pepsi Arena'. NBA won, game was on. Moving on... Lakers held their nerves to go on to take the lead and make a trip to the Pepsi Centre again for game six. Beat 'em. Thats it. Finished off the nuggets in style and Lakers are yet again the Western Conference Champs. When you beat a team consisting of Mello, Billups, Kenyon Martins, JR Smith, in-form Andersen and their up and coming bench, you should back yourself to go on and win the championship.

The Magic had some heartbreakind defeats in the hands of the king's Cavs, including a buzzer beater three by Lebron himself over Hedo Torgoklu to seal victory from behind; but the Magic were too hot to handle for the Cavs, who once again lost in the conference finals.

Magis vs Lakers. Superman vs Mamba. It all came down to this

Game one - Lakers, at home, just wrote the Magic off with a splendid 100-75 crushing victory and it was becoming a big momentum building game.

Game two - Lakers found it difficult to handle the up and rising Magic, with their big 3 point shooting force, bolstered by the return of Jameer Nelson after 4 month layoff. Courtney Lee missed an alley oop with .6 sec left in the match that could've sealed game 2. Game goes into over-time and the Lakers get past the magic. 2-0 to Lakers and now a three game trip to Orlando.

Game three - Magic fans crying for a victory. How did they respond? With a record shooting percentage. 62.5% from the field is no joke! But still, they allowed the lakers to stay in the match. But the lakers kept missing their free throws. Kobe missed five. Ever heard oh him missing five, thirteen years down in his career? That was the pressurre the Orlando crowd had built on the Lakers. Nelson, Lewis, Alston (man, he was the X factor). So, the FT cost the lakers? Did the last turnover by Kobe cost the game? We do not know, but the lakers tried their best, and it was a loss, that happens to any team. But, the big tag to this game - Magic's first ever victory in a finals series. They were swept in their only other finals.

Game four - Looking for a second victory, the Magic pressed hard, matched and bettered the Lakers offencively and defensively. A close game till the end. Magic had a twelve point lead at half time, but then, Ariza sprang to life and put in 13 and Magic ended up scoring just 14 in the quarter, and Lakers led after 3rd Q. towards the end of the game, with 11 seconds left, Magic up by three, Kobe fouls D12. And would you believe it? Dwight Howard, the superman missed the two most important free throws of his life that will haunt him for a few years now, till he wins a championship for himself. Even one bucket would've made it a two possession play for the lakers. But then came the time out and the back court wide open inbound. Magic concentrated on Kobe, but then was our veteran hero- Derek Fisher, who was quite open and made one of those biggest threes of his career over the not-even-troubling Nelson. GAME TIED, 4.6 TO GO. Is this Stan van Gundy's biggest mistake in life? His brother Jeff feels a bit like that... the last shot was taken by Mickael Pietrus, not Hedo!!! Rashard lewis was invisible this game. Superman did all he could, 21 rebounds, 16 points, 9 blocks...never seen before sort of record performance in a finals. but he needed mopre support... None of which came in the overtime as Lakers ran away with the game when the Big Fish made another great three. He showed absolutely no emotion, it was his job, he did it... Kobe trusted him, Phil knew he had it in him, and he didn't dissappoint. 3-1, chance to win it in Orlando itself.

Game five - People from 216+ countries clung to their tv sets, getting up early, putting off sleep, skipping meals, this had to be the moment - either lakers end their biggest hunger drive here, or orlando make one last attempt to rise to the occasion. The answer? Read on...
Orlando with the early run and 9 point lead, with all the frontline players pouring in, AND all of them having atleast an assist. Lakers collected themselves in the second quarter and the third to go on a bucket spree and romp ahead of the Magic, who had absolutely no answer the offence of kobe, gasol, odom, ariza and fisher.
The victory was nearing...
The threes by the Magic were of pointless importance now that the Lakers had a comfortable 16 point lead in the dying minutes...
SVG still had plans, while Phil had some plans for the celebration on the other side of the court.
Clock expired and there it was....

Ladies and Gentlemen, The winners - Los Angeles Lakers!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

One year of hard fought training, winning big matches, matching everyone eye to eye, making the big shots.

KOBE - The Finals MVP, for obvios reasons. 32+ ppg, 7+ rpg, 6+ apg this post-season, but he was more than that... he injured that fingure on his right hand and refused attention to it, saying, 'i want to feel the pain'. hunger unlimited. hunger satisfied

FISHER - the man for the big occasion. Lakers owe the championship to this little big man from Little Rock. Who knows what would've happened if not for those two series turning threes

GASOL - No game goes down without the mention of big Pow. Offence and defence, he was charged up. He wanted it more than anyone, he wanted the trophy. He blocked, he sank them, he dunked them, he caught up the rebounds, he was the big man in both halves of the court.

ARIZA - How this man improved from a not more than a bencher to a regular starter is a fairy tale story. great on the offense, shooting the big threem in with the attractive dunks, big rebounds, just the man Kobe would want on his side to assist him with the gaurd role. The big X factor this season for the Lakers.

ODOM - Candyman to the rescue. Bynum gets into the early foul trouble and Phil looks at this man and says show us what you got. This forward showed up why he is so much sought after with his big blocks and plays, and came up to surprise the defence with some HUGE threes in the playoffs.

BYNUM - young but determined, brings in the huge plays, send in the big dunks. Was a big part in keeping the big centres of the opponents down and quite.

WALTON - a complete player. whenever the chips are dow, he is ready to step up to the occasion.

FARMAR - the little fisher. amazing player with his amazing plays always kept the lakers up there on the charts.

This title is the best one the lakers have won in this decade, in this post-Shaq era...

This will be remembered for long, by all.
Thanks you lakers for this prize. We fans are always on your side, high or low...

Viva la LAKERS