THE GREAT ESCAPE

Posted on July 7, 2016. Filed under: TENNIS, WIMBLEDON, WIMBLEDON 2016 | Tags: , , , , , |

It is sad to see Roger Federer not making into the finals of tournaments leave alone winning titles. His absence from the French Open was a sad reminder of the fact that all things, however good they might be, have to come to an end. It has happened to other players of the past and in different sports and games. The same player who once had us thrilled ended up looking like a poor copy from a worn out photocopier. It happened to Boris Becker in tennis and the great Kapil Dev in cricket. Those two gentlemen were my original sporting idols. But it was really difficult coming to terms with the decline of Federer.

The pull out of Rafael Nadal and the unexpected loss of Novak Djokovic made me feel optimistic about the chances of Federer having the coveted Wimbledon trophy in his hands for one more time, may be the last time ever. But when Cilic won the first two sets, things began to look difficult for Federer. There were a lot of unforced errors, even on the Federer forehand that in its prime was feared by opponents. Of course, Cilic was playing well.

Federer saved three match points and came back into the match by winning the third set in a tie-break. Even then things were not pretty sailing for the Swiss and I tweeted about the need for a miracle for Federer to win. I was pretty convinced about the result. But slowly things began to fall in place with Cilic stacking up the errors and Federer won the next two sets to emerge the victor in five sets.

Federer did just enough to live for another day and have a go at the most coveted title in the tennis world. The semi-final is also going to be tough as Federer is going to face Milos Raonic. If he goes past the Canadian, the finals may in all probability, going by the seedings and the form book shall bring the rival called Andy Murray. Federer, going by his nature would not want to look beyond the encounter with Raonic. It remains to be seen whether one of the greatest of all time succeeds for a last time or would it be like having a futile tilt at the windmills. We have to wait for some time.

What a way to stay in the tournament and cause many heart beats to miss !. I wanted to title the post featuring the name ‘Houdini’. But I was beaten by more than a mile by Nirmal Sekhar and his write-up in The Hindu. I also thought of using the title ‘Live Another Day’ but unlike James Bond who is entirely fictional, Federer is a real hero. But I cannot remain free from the influence of Hollywood movies and there is the reason for the title.

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WHAT GOES UP…..

Posted on July 26, 2013. Filed under: CRICKET | Tags: , , , , , |

It would be an understatement to say that the Ashes 2013 are going towards the home team going by the result of the first two test matches no matter what Michael Clarke has to say about winning the series 3-2.

It was not too long ago that the Australian cricket structure was something that was the thing to emulate as far as cricketing success was concerned. The players, coaches and even the commentators from down under were regarded as special having that extra that were the envy of other cricketing nations. The payments offered in events like IPL to those coming from Australia made for difficult questions in quiz competitions. Coaches have been outsourced from Australia not only by national teams but also by state teams in India. It is not surprising that some commentators even try to sound like the Australians behind the microphone! But not all of them have proved to be a success.

Economists have for long attempted to understand and explain the rise and the decline in the level of economic activity through the use of the concept of business cycles. Words like recession and recovery are interspersed with terms like boom. There are different theories taking into account different factors at the heart of the recurring cyclical phases of economic activity. Possible solutions are also offered to reduce the length of the period where economic activity is at a low. Players like the central banks are often asked to lead the recovery and take the economy back to its glorious days. But there are some who say that the cyclical phases are inevitable given the fundamental causes and no tinkering can prevent or reduce the economic hardships.

It is in my humble opinion that the men in the baggy greens are going through the downward phase of their cricketing cycle after being at the top for a long time since the series win in the Caribbean in 1995. That marked the end of the success story of the Windies and the ascendancy of the Aussies. No one could predict the sorry state of the Windies that once thrashed the living daylights out of every opposition team. As a proud supporter of the Indian team, I was more interested in the performances of the likes of Sunil Gavaskar and Kapil Dev with the result of the match already known whenever India and the Windies met on the cricket field .At that time, the English cricket team was subject to ‘brownwashes’ not experienced even during the pomp of Don Bradman. Various theories were floated to explain the downfall in the standards of English cricket just as the case in the aftermath of the decline of the Windies starting from the latter half of the 1990s and the Aussie team now. There is one common reason-the lack of quality in the domestic players and the failings of the domestic cricket structure.

The lack of quality in the domestic players and the structure of domestic cricket and not to mention the BCCI are often blamed whenever the Indian team does not perform up to the expectations. Earlier, one day internationals were the main cause and now it is the IPL that is the cause of the ills that plague the Indian cricket team. To these factors add the lack of ‘sporting pitches’ and the whole equation becomes extremely complex that would test any analyst. The same causes or reasons are thrown around with the failures of the Aussie cricketers in the ongoing Ashes series. The Big Bash League the Aussie equivalent of the IPL takes most of the blame for the lack of skills and techniques in the current team that is in England. The experts are not afraid to point a finger at the quality of the pitches used for domestic cricket in Australia. The same pundits give credit to the T20 format when it comes to the improvement in the fielding skills and some of the shots like the ‘Dilscoop’ that are now part of the cricket lexicon!

There was a time when county cricket and the influx of foreign players was said to be the factor responsible for the decline in English cricket during the 1980s and the 1990s. A similar suggestion is made when anyone expresses surprise over the lack of success for the English football team in international competitions even as the country is home to some of the most successful football clubs.

After the loss of the Ashes at home, Cricket Australia appointed a committee to look into the likely causes and even mandated the committee to suggest possible long-term remedies to improve the stock of Australian cricket. Going by media reports, it now appears that most of the recommendations of the committee have not been implemented.

The English media has been gloating over the success of the cricket team as something that is the result of planning for a long time. The coaching staff led by Andy Flower and the cricket administration is given the credit for the success on the cricket field. There is no one who is going to deny the credit but all the talk about planning is something that does not go down well with me.

I am of the humble view that the decline of the Aussie cricket team has more to do with the overall decline of Australia in the sporting arena. Remember the number of Aussie medal winners in the London Summer Olympics of 2012? England or the United Kingdom is now experiencing a golden period of sporting excellence starting with the London Olympics and the latest being the winner in the Tour de France. There was a time when there were few world class athletes in England and now there are many across different disciplines. It will take time for Australia to rebuild and reclaim the top spot in cricket no matter who gets to coach or captain or who is called into the team.

Remember, what goes up, must come down.

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GREAT PERFORMANCES IN THE WORLD CUP:GRAHAM GOOCH-1987

Posted on February 6, 2011. Filed under: CRICKET, CRICKET WORLD CUP, ICC CRICKET WORLD CUP 2011, RELIANCE WORLD CUP 1987 | Tags: , , , , , , |

GOOCH

India was one of the favourites to go the distance in the Reliance World Cup of 1987.In the semi-finals in Bombay, India had to face England led by Mike Gatting.

The Indian team was rocked by bad news even before a ball was bowled with Dilip Vengsarkar out of the match with tummy trouble caused by ‘Bombay Duck’. It became the most infamous dish of the time, considering Vengsarkar was in fine form and much was expected of him on his home ground. Even then, there was still a lot of firepower left in the Indian arsenal to reach the final.

But India did not account for one of the finest performances of the World Cup coming from the bat of Graham Gooch. Gooch started his test career on a pair facing the likes of Dennis Lillee. There was also a ban on him following a trip to South Africa on a rebel tour. However, after the ban was served, Gooch returned to the English team and there were enough indications of his prowess.

Gooch had this way of facing the bowlers with a very high backlift. He always seemed to a good player of pace bowling but on that day, Gooch took on the Indian spinners and broke a lot of hearts.

Ball after ball and over after over, Gooch swept the spinners and the Indian team seemed to be completely bereft of all ideas. Maninder Singh who once was talked of as the natural successor to the legendary Bishen Singh Bedi was swept out of the attack. The other spinner, Ravi Shastri also did not have any clue to stop Gooch.

The Indian chase was not successful with the loss of key wickets at crucial junctures and the final nail in the coffin was struck when Kapil Dev holed out to a fielder in the deep. The bowler was Eddie Hemmings and the fielder was Gatting. This marked the end of tenure for India as the holders of the World Cup. There was so much anger and frustration that Kapil was made the scapegoat and he lost the captaincy.

Graham Gooch once again blew the Indian team away in a test match in 1990 when he scored 333 in the first innings and a 100 in the second.

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KALLIS VS.SOBERS-DEBATE CONTINUES

Posted on January 13, 2011. Filed under: CRICKET | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

Statistics are like bikinis.  What they reveal is suggestive, but what they conceal is vital.  ~Aaron Levenstein

Harsha Bhogle argues in Cricinfo that the South African all-rounder Kallis is the Garfield Sobers of the present generation. Harsha uses statistics to show us the great similarities as far as the numbers go.

But he misses out on one crucial factor that made Sobers a completely unique player, who according to many (Australians apart) is the greatest ever to step on to the cricket field. People loved to watch Sobers play while Kallis does not have that kind of an attraction. Kallis is truly a great player but equating him with Sobers is taking the things too far.

I have not seen Sobers play nor might have Harsha watched him in his pomp. But from what I have read and listened to, Sobers did everything with a lot of flair and panache. In contrast, Kallis is someone who is efficient to the point of being robotic. There have been times when Kallis seems to be overawed by the opposition as was the case against the likes of McGrath and Warne. Could anyone say the same for Sobers?

It is only in the current context where anyone who can bowl and bat a bit is called an ‘all-rounder’ that the record of Kallis is something of a very tall mountain to climb. Make no mistake, Kallis is a true all-rounder.

It would have been kind of refreshing to see Kallis compete against the likes of Kapil Dev, Imran Khan, Ian Botham or Richard Hadlee leaving Sobers out of the equation. While Kallis keeps scoring runs, takes wickets and pouches catches, he does not qualify as a match-winner who can change the course of a match with the bat or the ball or even by holding a catch or affecting a run-out. Can Kallis do a Botham at Headingley or a Kapil a 175 not out while the team lost 5 wickets for a few runs on the board? Imran was very good with the both the ball and the bat against the top teams including the ones from the West Indies. Hadlee took wickets everywhere even when his team was not the best.

Kallis is a great player and Sobers was the greatest.

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WHAT A 100

Posted on November 10, 2010. Filed under: CRICKET, INDIA, TEST CRICKET | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

 

In the just completed test at Motera in Ahmedabad, India managed to stave off an embarassing defeat to lowly ranked New Zealand thanks to the efforts of     V V S Laxman and Harbhajan Singh.

Laxman once again showed everyone in very clear terms why he is really ‘very very special’.This statement is fast becoming a cliche thanks to the exploits of Laxman in the recent matches against Sri Lanka and Australia.

While Laxman’s abilities and credentials cannot be questioned, Harbhajan Singh demonstrated his attitude and brought up his maiden 100 in first class cricket when it really mattered most.Not to forget the half century in the first innings in the same match.

With the 100, Harbhajan joined 3 other Indians who scored their maiden first class 100 in test matches.One of them is the great Kapil Dev.Predictably, after the match, some managed to ‘unearth’ a new all-rounder in Indian cricket. Mercifully, no one has the gall to draw comparisons between Kapil Dev and Harbhajan Singh!Of course, Sunil Gavaskar wants the selectors to make a batsman make way for another bowler in the wake of the 100 from Harbhajan.

Even as praises are showered on the batting efforts of Harbhajan, we have ignored the most important contribution that the off-spinner has to bring to his team. It is a matter of concern that while Harbhajan’s batting has improved, his bowling has gone into downhill. It is a worry that Australia and New Zealand managed to score in excess of 400 runs in the first innings of the previous three test matches in India.The primary role of Harbhajan is to take wickets although runs from his bat are also welcome.

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